Friday, November 27, 2015

Turkey Hash

Monday, November 23, 2015
Yesterday's New York Times had an interesting letter from Thomas H. Wright, emeritus vice president and secretary of Princeton University, dealing with the value of education.  He wrote: "There is substantial evidence that the more exposure to higher education that people today have received, the less likely they are to be susceptible to demagogy and denial of evidence and proven facts; and they are more capable of changing their prejudice-based opinions, and in general better prepared to join in the long effort to make a better world out of the crooked timber of humanity"  He does not cite any evidence, but what comes to my mind are: Ted Cruz - Princeton University, Ben Carson - Yale University, Carly Fiorina - Stanford University.  As for really crooked timber, I'll skip you-know-who, University of Pennsylvania.

November 22nd was the 52nd anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, a day that remains vivid to me as it probably does to most of you who were adults at the time.  I imagine that the 9/11 will have the same staying power to younger generations.  The Kennedy assassination raised immediate short-lived fears of some sort of conspiracy that threatened other national leaders.  However, sitting in Ithaca, New York, I did not fear for the physical safety of the country, although its political future seemed muddy at the time.  9/11, the first time that foreign forces did measurable harm in the continental US, left the Home of the Brave in continuing fear and produced a legacy of oppressive measures, official and unofficial, that continue to diminish our quality of life.  Right now, it is too soon to measure the impact of the latest attack on Paris and related events, but I doubt that it will produce a flourish of liberty, equality and fraternity.

The Wehrmacht, the combined Nazi armed forces, had more that 12,000,000 people in service, at its peak in 1944.

Compare that to the 8 or 9 Paris attackers 10 days ago, probably backed up with an equal number of fanatics, and the 2 or 3 people who attacked the hotel in Mali.  Clearly, the power of modern personal weaponry and instantaneous worldwide communications have, at least temporarily, amplified the perceived threat to ordinary people to an irrational level.  I'm sure that the stiff upper lips of Londoners exposed to nightly bombings in WWII occasionally quivered.  We saw how Earl Warren, later a dignified and righteous figure in American jurisprudence, hastened to intern American citizens because of their Japanese ancestry.  Stress or threat may well cloud one's judgment.  Some of our politicians, no doubt in tune with their constituents, seem poised to reerect the stockades.  I notice that many of those who advocate limiting the freedom of both the general public and certain population subsets, are usually ready to carve out a large domain of freedom for gun bearers.  What a formula for chaos.

I was fortunate to have Alan Silverman, an original member of the All-Alan Chorus, join me for lunch.  I had not seen Alan for one whole granddaughter of his.  As you know, J. Alfred Prufrock measured his life out with coffee spoons.  Some of us are fortunate enough now to measure our lives out with grandchildren.  We went to Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street, now a regular stop on my Chinatown perambulations.  Since I wanted Alan to be pleased, I ordered some familiar things that I have enjoyed already, and a couple of new dishes, to wit: roti wrap chicken, roti wrap beef (those fat burritos stuffed with curry chicken and rendang beef served with that delicious buttery curry sauce), Thai beef salad (charcoal-grilled beef in a very spicy chili, mint, onion, lime dressing) and char keow teow (lo mein-like rice noodles cooked with chicken, eggs, chives, lap cheong [Chinese sausage] and bean sprouts).  As it turned out, both Alans were thoroughly pleased.   

Ted Cruz wants to limit the American acceptance of Syrian refugees to Christians.  Even as a Jew, I am willing to abide with this policy if properly administered.  Not all Christians are created equal, after all.  Significant bloodshed has accompanied intra-Christian rivalries from Martin Luther through the Irish Republican Army.  Therefore, let us limit our welcome to Methodists.  While I admittedly do not know or understand the doctrinal differences among Christians, I like the sound of Methodists, Methodism, Methodical.  Those are the sort of folk that we need to make this country great again, like it was 10 years ago.  Please note that I don’t expect this exclusionary policy to be retroactive, returning the Gotthelfs to downtown Zuromin, Poland, a town about 75 miles northwest of Warsaw, population 8,647 (2006).   

Speaking of getting it backwards, British movie theaters are rejecting a prayerful advertisement produced by the Church of England.  Now, if all those annoying ads that are shown while we await the start of a film could be eliminated, I would be delighted.  I am not going to drink $4 cups of watered-down Coca-Cola no matter how cute the polar bears are.  However, “campaigners for a secular society argued that if the advertisement were shown, other religious groups might by law gain the right to have their material distributed in the same way.”  Which is exactly the idea.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Don’t say that you weren’t warned.  “When we were young, you would never show your underwear,” the designer Tommy Hilfiger said recently, referring to an era when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.  “Now, if you don’t show your underwear, you’re just not cool.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Now, this is cool.

Examining Google flight searches, the New York Times graphically displays prospective Thanksgiving travel patterns.  While the prototypical Thanksgiving scene includes a blazing fire in an autumnal setting, in fact, favored destinations for holiday travelers are Orlando, Miami and Las Vegas.  Where are people leaving from?  Boston, Washington and Atlanta.  

Speaking of travelers, we welcomed America’s Loveliest Nephrologist and the Oakland Heartthrob to the Palazzo di Gotthelf late last night for a holiday visit.  

Jihadist violence has taken 28 lives in the United States since 9/11 (not counting the dead perps).  As illustrated by an article today, 9 of the perps were born in the USA, 5 were naturalized citizens, 2 had green cards, one had a tourist visa, and one, a British citizen, did not require a visa. 

Sorry to disappoint Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and other Freedom Fighters, but none of the bad guys was a refugee.  In all this posturing about the sanctity of our borders and the safety of our citizens, the same blowhards continue to ignore some facts (lots of facts actually) about the toll taken by domestic, white, Gentile terrorists, about twice as deadly as foreign and domestic Muslims since 9/11.  Note that, so far, all of our terrorists have been male, whatever their skin shade or religion.   

The worst omission by our bold patriots is the number of Americans killed by guns, homicides, suicides and accidents, at least 33,636 in 2013 (the latest year available).

If you libertarians wish to eliminate the remarkably high number of suicides from this tally (freedom of choice and all that), gun homicides and accidents killed 12,461 people in 2013.  What shall we do about it?  Repeat after me:  U-S-A!  U-S-A!  We’re #1! 

Friday, November 26, 2015
I think that everybody but you was here yesterday for Thanksgiving dinner, prepared with exquisite care and producing wonderful results by my young bride.  I have always enjoyed the turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes heaped on my plate.  As is widely known, I am a pulke person (pulke = drumstick in Yiddish), so our turkey came with 5 pulkes, 2 original equipment and 3 after-market accessories.

Friday, November 20, 2015

What Did That Used To Be Called?

Monday, November 16, 2015
The New York Giants played a football game yesterday that went back and forth. In the end, the Giants defeated two teams – the New England Patriots and the New York Giants.

If you read this headline, you have to read the story that follows.
"Jack Yufe, a Jew Whose Twin Was a Nazi, Dies at 82"

We are faced with many politicians, and ordinary citizens, calling for us to get tough with ISIS. Rarely do they offer any specifics to go with their aggressive posturing. I offer a three-pronged approach to this very difficult challenge:
1) Anyone proposing taking the battle to ISIS will be conscripted to be among the first boots on the ground. If unable to serve, their adult children or grandchildren will serve in their stead.
2) Increase taxes on the wealthy, those who have the most to lose, in order to raise military preparedness – supplies and pay – to its highest levels. Let’s not send unarmored Humvees into harm’s way again.
3) Attack inequality at home to prevent the growth of a radical underclass.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
I did something today that I haven’t done for years -- I had Chinese food for lunch . . . not in Chinatown. But, let is begin this story last night. I was enjoying a new cookie from Trader Joe's, their version of Pepperidge Farm’s Milano, probably the best mass produced cookie in the Western Hemisphere. As I customarily did with almost every chocolate dessert, I had put it in the freezer. As I bit into the frozen cookie, I was surprised to find a nut, until I realized that the cookie had a smooth Belgian chocolate filling, no nuts. Tooth. Not the baker’s, mine. 

After several hours in the office this morning, I went to one member of my dental army, situated in midtown Manhattan. He looked at the small tooth fragment and found where it used to be. Since his eyes and my tongue could not detect a sharp edge where the tooth broke, we decided to leave well enough alone. So, I left the dentist’s office at 2:15 without having been charged a cent and I went looking for a place to have lunch. I skipped in order to spare the dentist having to wade through and around the flotsam and jetsam of one of my usual meals. In midtown Manhattan, there was a vast array of choices for lunch.

Lan Sheng, Szechuan Restaurant, 60 West 39th Street, is on a block with about as many restaurants as there are unsuitable Republican candidates for President. The restaurant is long and narrow, well furnished, peach-colored walls, boasting of once having had (and lost) a Michelin star. I asked for Singapore chow fun ($9.95), not on the menu, but undoubtedly available where Singapore mei fun (angel hair noodles) is listed. The waiter repeated "wide" several times and held his fingers apart to demonstrate what I was getting in case I had missed my latest Mandarin homework assignment. The large portion was excellent, loaded with chicken, shrimp, egg, bean sprouts and scallions mixed in with the spicy wide noodles. Considering the much more expensive midtown real estate, the price was quite reasonable, almost the same as Chinatown.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Now we’re talking. Jeb! spoke yesterday about the threat posed by ISIS and went boldly where his competitors have not gone. "The United States should not delay in leading a global coalition to take out ISIS with overwhelming force. Militarily, we need to intensify our efforts in the air — and on the ground." That’s right – Boots On The Ground. I await word that his three adult children have put themselves forward to lead the effort that ! advocates. So far, the only reaction from his Republican opponents is Donald Trump’s promise to send several copies of his New York Military Academy yearbook overseas to inspire those doing battle for Western Civilization.

Thursday, November 19, 2015
Was Shakespeare right? "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." Princeton students started a sit-in at the university’s president’s office yesterday. Their demands include the removal of Woodrow Wilson’s name from anything named after him at the university, because of his patent racism. Should we be equally vigorous regarding the commemoration of other imperfect human beings, such as, Malcolm X (criminality), Franklin D. Roosevelt (philandering) and Peter Stuyvesant (anti–Semitism)? If we are too quick to wield a paint brush, a chisel or a screwdriver to remove the signs of offensive characters from our halls and walls, we may wind up with vast spaces designated as "To Whom It May Concern."

Friday, November 20, 2015
Stony Brook Steve came by for lunch and we went to Oriental Garden, 14 Elizabeth Street (April 27, 2010), which is near the top of many people's list of favorite Chinese restaurants, including Zagat's. It gets a mention, but not a star from Michelin. and my last visit did not compel me to hurry back.  While the food is good, the room simply doesn't feel comfortable; there seems to be too much empty space.  The surprise that one woman server showed when I asked for a glass of water in addition to the pot of tea on the table added to my unease.

We ordered dim sum from a printed menu, almost all priced at $4 a dish.  A few items were coming around on a cart, but most were fetched from the kitchen.  We had scallop dumplings, chicken dumplings, chive dumplings, baked pork buns and sweet/sour spareribs.  I guess that Oriental Garden would be best at night, a large group very hungry for very good, expensive Chinese food.

Donald Trump is taking heat from Republicans and Democrats for his impulsive suggestion to institute a database for Muslims.  It smacks of Nazi Germany, of course.  Here is a much friendlier idea.  Let's put a bell around the neck of Texas Republicans to signal the approach of George W. Bush, Rick Perry or Ted Cruz.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A View From Chinatown

Monday, November 9, 2015
It’s not easy coming up with new Chinese restaurants after almost six years plodding the streets of Chinatown, but I sought and I found Sunrise Restaurant 88 (a/k/a Sunrise Chinese Restaurant), 50 Eldridge Street. 8 is a lucky number for many Chinese, so appending it here is wishful thinking.  Sunrise replaced Long Xin Restaurant (July 2, 2012), although physically they seem quite the same, a big room, with high ceilings covered in blue plastic panels painted with puffy clouds. All the tables are round, with most having heavy-duty lazy Susans in the middle. A significant difference, however, was the busyness. I reported back then that Long Xin "was fairly busy, with Chinese occupants at every table, all except the French grandmother, mother and daughter right behind me." Today, I was the only customer seated, while one person came in and out for takeout.

I ordered orange flavored beef ($8.75) and got a medium-sized portion with too much broccoli on the plate. While it was cooked while I waited, since the kitchen had little else to do, it was otherwise ordinary. I won’t mind if the sun sets on Sunrise.

Nearby was the new, large 99 Favor Taste, 285 Grand Street, the offspring of a Brooklyn establishment. I stopped in there before going on to Sunrise, but, finding that it is devoted exclusively to hot pot, I left and it is unlikely that I will ever return. To quote myself (August 20, 2014, referring to October 28, 2013), "Hot pot, as I’ve noted before, is a Chinese variant on fondue, whereby you are sure to burn your mouth, lips and tongue as well as spattering the front of your shirt/blouse with the bubbling liquid." I don’t mean to deter you, and I will pass on any interesting observations that you might provide on this joint.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Modigliani’s work "Nu Couché" sold for $170.4 million yesterday at auction, the second highest price paid at auction for an artwork.

I am satisfied enjoying it as reproduced for only the cost of a newspaper. The New York Times included this illustration in the article today about the transaction, and, over the weekend, carried a full-page advertisement for the auction almost entirely occupied by the illustration. This is near-revolutionary for the staid New York Times, to show so much female flesh, even as art. Maybe now, some of us arrested adolescents can discard old issues of the National Geographic containing revealing photographs of native villagers.

An e-mail late this afternoon told me that 2,099 people have read my Trip Advisor reviews. What a feeling of power! It’s like being a Republican candidate for president, except I am inhibited by facts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Armistice Day (Veteran’s Day) is a state holiday, no work.  However, my young bride and I had an important appointment and we were careful in our preparations and our accessorizing. We were invited to meet, for the first time, and have lunch with, the Oakland Heartthrob's parents, moving that whole Situation up to Defcon 2. I am happy to say that all went well; Mr. and Mrs. M. were delightful company and my skirt steak salad was superb.

Friday, November 13, 2015
As many of you, I often take cultural clues from the New York Times.  This morning, I am in a position to differ with its rave review of Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge."

"At the end of its uninterrupted two hours, you are wrung out, scooped out and so exhausted that you’re wide awake. You also feel ridiculously blessed to have been a witness to the terrible events you just saw." Is that a rave, or what?

The play is much more about individuals and their personal challenges than the Big Ideas which Miller usually addresses in "The Crucible," "Death of a Salesman," and "The Price," works that I am familiar with. The play is supposed to be driven by the emergence of a deep, disturbing obsession. However, after an opaque, wordless opening scene that could front almost any "serious" work, the secret is thrown right into our laps (by way of the laps of the lead characters). There are no more surprises after the first few minutes, as a cruel fate eventually encompasses the players. 
We saw the play less than 2 weeks ago, but I don't think that the interval between that performance and last night's opening accounted for my difference of opinion with the usually astute Times reviewer. The play came over intact from London, where it was equally celebrated, with the same cast and creative team. I acknowledge that my opinion here may not be as important or well founded as my views on scallion pancakes.

In that vein, I want to discuss Wo Hop vs. Wok Wok. I went to Wok Wok (11 Mott Street) today, on my regular weekly visit ever since it opened. Does that mean that I have abandoned my devotion to and affection for Wo Hop (17 Mott Street)? Hardly. I continue going to Wo Hop, usually once a week, Tuesday this week. I know its menu so well that I stick to some world-class favorites -- chow fun, fried rice, egg foo young, crispy fried noodles. These items  consistently evoke a silly grin of satisfaction which I don't feel the need to verbalize time after time. The menu at Wok Wok, however, still has some unexplored territory, and I try something new each visit, giving rise to commentary.

Today, I had roti wrap ($5.75) with rendang beef, "an Indonesian dish made by simmering beef for hours in coconut milk and spices until the liquid has evaporated"  ( As in last week's roti wrap with curried chicken, the delicious contents are wrapped in a flaky crêpe, nearly 6" long and 2" in diameter. It is accompanied by small bowl of buttery curry sauce for dipping and dunking and schlurping. I'm sure that I will pay more for this dish in time, and, as long as it retains its ample size and great taste, I will do so happily.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Let's Mingle

Monday, November 2, 2015
Friday night, we went to the theater with the Schneiders.  Saturday night, we sat down in our theater seats to find that we were sitting next to the Moskowitzes and directly in front of the Bergs.  Now, all of these people are charming folks and welcome company, but I am a strong believer in diversity in public and private affairs.  So, I am asking the D'Angelos, the Johnsons, the Reillys, the Changs and the Gomezes to send me some available dates in order for us to meet and mingle with folks from a different gene pool.  I'm sure that I would benefit from their ideas based on their life experiences, while they might benefit from almost 6,000 years of wisdom passed on generation-to-generation, burnished by adversity, and proven to garner high SAT scores and to have an ability to sell ladies’ clothing.

But, I'm not the only one worrying about diversity right now.  Arthur C. Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, agonized over the issue in the New York Times the other day.

Remember that the American Enterprise Institute has been notably silent over the decades in the face of racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination.  When it addressed the subject(s), it usually advised the disprivileged to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and trust to the basic fairness of the great American public, counseling them to put aside thoughts of legislation and aim for the hearts and minds of the population at large.  So, what has stirred Mr. Brooks current cry for justice?  It is the lack of "ideological diversity in the behavioral sciences."  Conservatives are supposedly being frozen out of university positions in psychology, social neuroscience,  criminology and related fields, and/or their published output is being inhibited by the lack of status or stature to do their work.  What a shame. 
While some of us are concerned about discrimination in mortgage lending, jury selection, police targeting, employment hiring and compensation, and voting rights, conservatives are being insidiously denied their place in the groves of academe.  Obviously, the hearts and minds of the collectivists running our universities are closed to right reason.  Maybe we need to offer Pell grants for subscriptions to the National Review.   

I like fried chicken a lot, but it is never served at Palazzo di Gotthelf mainly because of the time and complexity needed to prepare it.  Outside the home, a report that a restaurant has demonstrated excellence in frying a chicken is a powerful lure for me.  Therefore, I got a  vicarious thrill from reading these recipes.

If you wish, you can convert my vicarious thrills into actual ones by advising me where and when you will be serving anyone of these versions, or even your own functional equivalent.  I’ll bring dessert.  
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Today is Election Day with the sparest imaginable ballot.  In my voting district, there are only uncontested elections for judgeships, only Democrats need apply.  Yet, this warrants a day off from work for all of us justice junkies down at the courthouse.  While I took all my meals at home, I walked over four miles through midtown Manhattan, enjoying the lovely weather.  

Again, the New York Times web site has come up with something better even than dreams of sugar plum fairies, chocolate recipes.  

Wednesday, November 4, 2015
I had to sign some papers at a downtown office building, so I decided to eat in the Financial District before returning to Heaven on Earth.  I chose Zaitzeff, 72 Nassau Street, corner of John Street, the only outlet for this hamburger joint, without knowing that it got high marks from Trip Advisor and Zagat’s.  What attracted me was the basic simplicity of the joint and the busyness it had early in the lunch hour.  

Zaitzeff (I have no idea where or who the name comes from) offers sirloin burger, Kobe burger, turkey burger and veggie burger, as well as a BLT, a chicken sandwich and a couple of fried egg sandwiches.  The 1/4 pound sirloin burger that I had, the overwhelming majority choice while I sat there, costs $10.50 and comes with lettuce, tomato and grilled onions on a Portuguese roll.  Options include bacon, cheese, mushrooms (my choice) and a fried egg, which I resisted in spite of memories of Obie’s in downtown Ithaca, adding $1.50 to $3.  My burger, cooked medium without asking, was very good.  Doubling the amount of meat to 1/2 pound costs $6 more.  My only complaint was too much of good thing, that is the enormous portion of hand cut French fries for $5.  They should not serve this to one person.  No smaller portion was available.

Zaitzeff used its very small space efficiently.  Three country oak dining room tables, each with six chairs, were constantly occupied,while many other people came and went with carry-out orders.  I hadn't planned on lingering to do a crossword at lunchtime anyway.  The food was better than I had on my first visit ever to Shake Shack, one week ago.  Nothing but very large crowds kept me away from any of Shake Shack’s many outlets that I came across, including the stand at CitiField where I could never get close enough to order, day game, night game, good weather, bad weather, Mets ahead, Mets behind.  Shake Shack was cheaper than Zaitzeff, but the latter’s quality warranted it.  Neither place is for the nervous or the claustrophobe.

Thursday, November 5, 2015
Today’s New York Times pays attention to the demise of Organic Avenue, a local chain of 10 cold-pressed juice stores.  It seemed to be very popular with skinny people and beautiful people, who frequently felt the need for a good “cleansing.”
Needless to say, I never patronized Organic Avenue; in fact, I had no idea that it even existed.  Whenever I am walking the streets of New York and I catch sight of a whirring blender containing a green liquid, my pace increases notably and whoever happens to be ahead of me faces the risk of being stepped on.  Maybe Gwyneth Paltrow et alia need to be reminded of the virtues of an artisanal egg cream. 
I made my now regular weekly visit to Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street, today.  It was busy, about 3/4 of the tables occupied, but service was efficient.

I had ma la wonton ($5.50), seven small wontons cooked in a highly-spiced peanut sauce, and roti wrap ($5.75), a 5" long Malaysian chicken burrito.  The thin, slightly flaky pancake surrounded curried chicken, with a small bowl of delicious, buttery curry sauce on the side.  I enjoyed it so much that, even though I left two boxes in the crossword puzzle empty, lunchtime was a very satisfying experience.
Friday, November 6, 2015
Today is Love Your Lawyer Day, in case you forgot.
America's Favorite Epidemiologist and I are discussing where she might place the following tattoo.

Friday, October 30, 2015

My Speech (10/24/15)

Before I begin, I must say how pleased I am to share this day with Evelyn Attia Laufer.  Putting aside for the moment the legal implications of taking another wife, I think that it is appropriate that I am paired with a woman who is a psychiatrist and a world-famous authority on eating disorders.
My dear friend Steve Schneider likes to time how long it takes me in conversation to bring up an old girl friend.  Well, I'll make it easy for him and start immediately with a recollection from almost 50 years ago when a girl friend asked me if I liked being Jewish.  She volunteered that she did not like it, for very practical reasons.  Her father was a very prominent rabbi and he was beset by demands on his time and energy from his congregation and the community at large.  She felt isolated and ignored as a result, although her father was devoted to her, but in that undemonstrative way that many fathers -- Jewish and otherwise -- have of holding their affection back.  She connected her unhappiness to her father's position, and, by extension, to Judaism generally.
On the other hand, I had no hesitation expressing my satisfaction with being Jewish, although it came at a time in my life that I entered a synagogue only for a few minutes during the High Holidays and for those life cycle events where the intimacy of the association made attendance unavoidable.  That period of abstention actually lasted for many decades to come.
I was physically absent from organized Jewish life while maintaining a strong sense of Jewish identity.  This seeming disconnect was, to my mind, a natural outcome of my Jewish childhood.  My parents kept a kosher home, but, of course, on occasional Sunday afternoons they took us to Wu-Han’s Chinese restaurant, one flight up on Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
Friday night dinners were always chicken soup, chopped liver, chicken and a 12 ounce bottle of Pepsi-Cola that my brother and I divided with as much attention as paid to the first splitting of the atom.  Candles were lit and then my parents welcomed in the Sabbath by making their weekly grocery shopping rounds to the A&P, Bohack’s and Daitch Shopwell.  
There was Hebrew school, heder.  That meant a dusty, airless room at the top of the Sutter Avenue shul.  I say the Sutter Avenue shul because our houses of worship were identified by location alone and I doubt that my father or my observant uncles could provide the formal name for the Sutter Avenue shul, closest to us, or the Fountain Avenue shul, closest to my Grandmother Gotthelf.  
Rabbi Colmanovitch (as he was called) was the sole teacher for the two Hebrew classes that met after school weekdays.  The earlier class was for younger boys, 8 to 10, the later for boys approaching Bar Mitzvah.  And it was only boys, with the exception of the Rubinstein sisters -- I remember the older as Rachel, nearly my age.  In contrast to the boys, these girls came solely for the sake of education.  No girls at that shul could expect to have a Bat Mitzvah, and I think that the balcony where the women sat would have collapsed if it were attempted.  By an odd coincidence, about 30 years later, I sat next to Aaron Rubinstein at a banquet dinner and learned that he was their baby brother.
Rabbi Colmanovitch would not hesitate to swat his inattentive scholars, and I was a big and deserving target, yet my memories of the Sutter Avenue shul were mostly pleasant.  While West End Synagogue has services marked by Bob Dylan music and ee cummings poetry, only discordant, unsynchronized Hebrew chanting and Yiddish conversation were heard at Sutter Avenue services.  I still remember starting my Haftorah, the warbling sing song that is the artistic highlight of a Bar Mitzvah service, when an old man began chanting his own version at a speed and pronunciation distinctly different than mine.  
While that beginning of my Haftorah was less than perfect, it ended, as was typical in those days, with a shower from the women’s balcony above of brown paper bags, filled with candy.  The boys from heder scurried around to collect as many bags as possible from the floor, not only for the sweet treats, but aware that, in vivid contrast to today's lavish Kiddushim (the meal after services), the congregation could only expect rye whiskey, pickled herring and honey cake in the synagogue's basement afterwards.

I especially looked forward to other boys’ Bar Mitzvahs at the Sutter Avenue shul because my maternal grandmother, the wonderful Esther Malka Goldenberg, sat front and center in the balcony, recognized as a community leader because of her ownership of a grocery store a few blocks away.  Esther Malka used her position of influence very much to my advantage by gathering many of those brown paper bags from other women before they could be launched onto the floor below and holding them until I made my way upstairs to visit her.  She called me, contrary to the physical evidence even then, “the Klayner” because I was the younger of two children.
Even now, I can’t think about being Jewish without thinking about Esther Malka.  Not just because of the candy that she hoarded for me on those Saturday mornings, but because of the generosity that she showed to so many people in varying ways.  On one or two occasions, while I was in high school, I stayed with her for a week when everyone else was out of her household.  After a couple of mornings, I got used to the mailman sitting down for breakfast as part of his daily rounds, but I was surprised when the Fire Marshall sat down, at her urging, while inspecting the premises, which included the grocery store below the living quarters.  
Of course, all interactions with those folks and any members of the general public, Jewish or not, were conducted in her distinctive Yiddish-English.  Two of her most memorable locutions were admonishing my mother for allowing me to go to shul on a Saturday morning dressed in “Tangerines,” and identifying people that she met on shipboard on her trip to Israel in the late 1950s as coming from the Western state of “Coca Cola.”
With that legacy, how could I ever move away from Judaism, even if I stayed away from synagogues?
As my horizons broadened and my skepticism deepened, I remained Jewish at the most visceral level.  I talked Jewish, I thought Jewish, I ate Jewish, although this was not always easy outside New York City.  My first wife was Jewish and we were married by a Rabbi, but nothing distinguished our household in Los Angeles as a Jewish home.  Her parents' experience as refugees from the Nazis in Vienna, escaping halfway around the world to Shanghai, stripped them of whatever connection to Jewish customs and rituals that they may have grown up with.  This neutered condition bothered me, but I thought that the arrival of children would return Jewishness to my life, with Hebrew school, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and family celebrations.  But, there were no children, the marriage collapsed and I returned to New York.  
Thinking back, I can only remember going to shul once in the nine years that I lived in Los Angeles.  I didn’t miss the worship, the Hebrew language, the too frequent standing up and sitting down, and the vapid sermonizing.  It was the Being There, taking my place, if only for a brief time, among the Jewish people, that strange river of humanity rising in a past that we insist not be forgotten. 
Actually, my exposure to vapid sermonizing began after we left Brooklyn, because Rabbi Sininsky at the Sutter Avenue shul, a stubby man with curly red hair, delivered his remarks exclusively in impassioned Yiddish, with tears.  When, with great reluctance, I accompanied my parents to a conservative shul in Queens for High Holy Day services, I first heard sermons in English and slid further down in my seat.  Conservative shuls were the place where I spent an hour or two each September or October while my mother, who lived to nearly 103 years old, was still able to, and therefore insistent upon, attending services.  
Additionally, I made a visit to a synagogue, rarely the same one twice, each November for my father’s Yahrzeit, the commemoration of his death.  My presence among a small group of strangers at evening prayers brought me little comfort, always raising questions and doubts about my connection with those people.  But, I felt that it was my connection to my father that I was asserting, and I often wondered who might connect with me in the future.
In 1996, I met America’s Favorite Epidemiologist.  We married in 2003, using a Rabbi who actually knew us.  We moved to the building immediately behind where we are now seated, although the presence of two shuls in front of the door was of no consequence to me.  My mother-in-law took ill late in 2003 and died in January 2004.  Mayris, whose adult life included active participation in Jewish education, services and community activities, sought a place to regularly say the mourner’s prayers.  In an interesting twist, she turned to Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, then at CBST, then unmarried, whom she had known from Rabbi Ayelet’s youth, for guidance in picking a shul that reflected the progressive Jewish values that Mayris was committed to.  
Easy, go to West End Synagogue, listen to Rabbi Yael Ridberg, said Rabbi Ayelet.  Indeed, I started hearing about interesting programs and discussions held on Saturdaymornings while I stayed home with the newspaper.  Mayris even suggested that I might appreciate some of the ideas being tossed around, but I stayed true to my faith.  Of course, I knew that I had to spend a little time at High Holy Day services and I agreed to go to West End Synagogue, before I learned that those services were held in some church over by the park, not in the cute little building downstairs.       
Besides the gothic surroundings, not entirely cleansed of Christian imagery, where the congregation gathered, the West End Synagogue services differed from what I remembered being disdainful of in other venues.  There was music and poetry and commentary that was not entirely offensive to my rational sensibilities.  Then, in a few moments that sealed my future, and brought me here today, Isaac Zieman, a little old man got up and sang, in a wonderful reedy voice, Partisaner Lid, a Yiddish song of resistance to the Nazis.  
Zog nit keyn mol, az du geyst dem letstn veg,
khotsh himlen blayene farshteln bloye teg.
Kumen vet nokh undzer oysgebenkte sho,
s’vet a poyk ton undzer trot: mir zaynen do!
Never say this is the final road for you,
Though leadened skies may cover over days of blue.
As the hour that we longed for is so near,
Our step beats out the message: we are here! 

Love It Or List It

Monday, October 26, 2015
The New York Times published their ten most popular recipes.

Most, except the curries, seem easy to prepare. Beef could be substituted for pork shoulder, but the bacon accent in the spinach spaetzle would be sorely missed, for those of you who continue to walk the dietary straight and narrow. I’m ready to be served any and all of these dishes, at your convenience, to determine if their popularity is warranted.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Many law schools are lowering standards for admission (primarily scores on admissions tests) in order to deal with a decline in applicants.

This should produce a commensurate decline in the passing rate for state bar exams, because of an established correlation between the exams going in and the exams going out. Based on my own observations, law schools are insufficiently demanding once students are admitted. The power of hefty tuition income seems to dull the administrations’ instincts to trim the ranks of non- or under-performing students. While the better students are recognized and rewarded within and without the halls of legal academe, the dross only seem to held accountable, if at all, by their parents, paying fat bills for tuition and living expenses.

Then, we have had pressure to ease the bar exam, allowing more ill-prepared students to (attempt to) join the professional ranks. New York is about to introduce the Uniform Bar Exam, a multi-state test considered less rigorous than the current New York-centric version. Here is a jaded view of New York’s move.

Finally, we hear laments about the absence of jobs for lawyers.

But wait, it gets worse. Here is a headline in today’s New York Law Journal: "More Firm Leaders Say They Expect Computers to Replace Young Lawyers."

So, Mammas let your babies grow up to be cowboys.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015
What, another list? This week’s issue of Time Out New York lists "100 Best Dishes in the City."

I must admit that I’ve only had one of them (the ice cream at 10 Below, 10 Mott Street, which I found to have more curiosity value than taste), demonstrating that either I am lazy or it’s a big world out there or both. The list begins with the ten best overall, and then goes by category, vegetables, seafood, desserts and such. A conscientious effort to have the best is challenging. Four of the top ten are part of tasting menus/fixed dinners, ranging from $85 to $200 (before you sit down).

Today, tasting menus are all the thing. Most lists of the best restaurants/meals seem to focus on such endeavors. However, this is old news where I came from. Mother Ruth Gotthelf’s dinners always had a set menu, changing nightly. There were no substitutions, but, admittedly, unlike some of the fancy schmantzy joints, truffles could not be shaved onto the salmon croquettes at any cost. With some exceptions, night-in, night-out we had more satisfying meals (ambience aside) than your typical foodie can muster.

The Boyz Club met for lunch at New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe, 50 Mott Street. Eight of us put together our own meal – cold sesame noodles, scallion pancakes, soup dumplings, orange flavored beef, sauteed fish fillet in sweet and sour sauce, shredded beef with spicy sauce, eggplant with garlic sauce, sesame chicken, diced chicken with black bean sauce, and choice of egg drop or hot and sour soup – all for $16 each, demonstrating the economies of scale.

Still another list; today’s New York Law Journal prints the results of the July New York State bar exam. About 500 fewer candidates took the exam than last year, with a pass rate of 79% for those New York state law schools graduates taking the test for the first time, continuing a decline in recent years. Inevitably, my eyes fell on the names of the successful candidates. I was surprised and delighted to see that Jasmine Gothelf passed, as did Yi He, Bo Li, Xi Lu and Zi Ye, tied for the shortest name. I could not distinguish the longest name, because a string of middle names, usually used only on formal occasions, distorted the picture. Instead, I sought the most euphonious, music to my ears. I am trying to decide between Pious Pavitar Ahuja and Tolulope Fyinfoluwa Odunsi, but good luck to them in any case and I hope they get a job without the threat of being replaced by a computer.

Thursday, October 29, 2015
Tuesday night’s World Series game, between Kansas City and New York, lasting 14 innings, running well over 5 hours, set a recent high mark for television viewing, an average of 14.9 million people. By contrast, the final game of the 1980 World Series, between Kansas City and Philadelphia, drew 52.1 million viewers. Whaa? The US population in 1980 was 226.5 million people, while the current population is estimated at 322.05 million. Where is everybody?

What is a Chinese restaurant? That seems like an odd question from me after I have spent almost 6 years eating lunch in hundreds of Chinese restaurants, as reported herein. However, it is the right question to ask after lunch at Potato Corner, 234 Canal Street, a decidedly Chinatown location. It is the only New York City branch of a worldwide chain that originated in the Philippines; almost all the other US locations are in malls. The owners of this franchise store are Chinese, the young Vietnamese counterman told me. His coworker is from Venezuela.

The menu is basically fried potatoes in various shapes and forms with added flavors. There are six styles of potato, original French fries, loopy fries (curls), sweet potato (waffle cut), tater tots, Jo Jo chips (thick, ridged potato chips), and chili cheese fries. Six flavors are dusted on after frying, BBQ, cheddar, sour cream & onion, chili BBQ, cinnamon & sugar, and garlic & parmesan. Finally, four sauces for dipping are available, BBQ, ranch, honey mustard, and Thousand Island. Real food is available only in the form of chicken, tenders, wings or poppers. You can see that it takes a while to place an order. I had a chicken combo, three chicken tenders (slabs of white meat, about 1/4 inch thick, 4 inches long, deep-fried in a bread crumb crust), with loopy fries ($8.89 including a 16 oz. Diet Coke). I chose sour cream & onion flavoring for the potatoes, feh, meh, and honey mustard sauce to dip the chicken in.

So, in the absence of noodles and rice, is it reasonable to call Potato Corner a Chinese restaurant? Note that Thanh, the Vietnamese counterman, objected to labeling this hole in the wall with only two stools at a short ledge as a restaurant. We agreed on joint, however. And, therefore, I declare this and only this US branch of Potato Corner to be a Chinese joint (as I understand the term to encompass all the cuisines of East Asia). I reserve opinion on the operation at the Seattle Southcenter and the Rosedale (Minnesota) Center among others until I know more about their ownership and personnel.

Friday, October 30, 2015
We plan to fill our appetite for culture as well as our appetite for food over this weekend.  Tonight, we are seeing "King Charles III," a play just arrived from London, imagining the reign of the next King of England.  Tomorrow night, we are seeing Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge," a very American play in a revival also brought over from London.  Both of the evenings were arranged long before anyone had reason to believe that the Mets would be playing games 3 and 4 of the World Series at exactly the same time.  I will behave.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Monday, October 19, 2015
Usually, I am satisfied thinking that 2 or 3 people not in my will are reading these ruminations.  However, I might be spoiled by a message from Trip Advisor, the web site that aggregates travelers' opinions, which I have made frequent use of in my own travels.  For the first time,  after my trip to Barcelona, I sent in some reviews because I was collecting my thoughts to take up some space here anyway.  Well, Trip Advisor told me that, as of yesterday, 596 people read my restaurant review.  That’s pretty good, a bit intoxicating even.  I might want to do this more often.

72nd Street Downtown Subway Platform *** - This example of early New York City underground architecture is frequently busy during the day, attracting both locals and visitors to the neighborhood.  It is noisy and sometimes smelly, but those are reasons to start conversations with good-looking strangers.  Foreign languages may be in use, it is open 24 hours a days and the price of admission is low.

Thanks to Herb Dooskin for finding this nugget in James Patterson's novel Alert, probably  written by his collaborator, Michael Ledwidge.  In any case, the book deals with the efforts of NYPD detective Michael Bennett and the FBI’s Emily Parker to fight a high tech assault on the city that never sleeps.  Here is the end of chapter 55:
“So close and yet so far,” [Bennett] said, looking at the federal building two blocks away, above the courthouses.  “Hey, after our respective ass-covering sections, how about Chinese for lunch?  Wo Hop.  My treat.”  “Wo Hop?” Emily said.  “How could I turn that down?”

Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Last night, I went to my first Rangers hockey game of the season and it was all good news.  The Rangers beat a strong opponent 4-0 by performing well in all phases of the game.  However, there wasn’t good news outside Madison Square Garden.  When I arrive early in the neighborhood of MSG, I usually go into Jack’s 99 Cent store, 110 West 32nd Street, between Broadway and Seventh Avenue to see what bargains are around.  I left Jack’s last night empty handed and disappointed for three reasons.  First, very little merchandise was being sold for 99 cents, that magic number that has almost become a brand name.  Second, actual prices were no bargain.  Items that I am familiar with were no cheaper than at supermarkets and more expensive than at cut-rate competitors.  Finally, the source of my greatest disappointment was the absence of familiar items of rare quality, notably Barton’s real dark chocolate-covered graham crackers and pretzels, two to a package for 99 cents.  This amounted to about $6 a pound for the excellent graham crackers; the closest competitor is Asher’s, available at Zabar’s, Fairway, selling for $6.95 for 7.15 ounces or more, about $15 a pound.  The same disproportion applied to chocolate-covered pretzels.  No wonder that my typical purchase of Barton’s was 6 or 8 packages of each.  Please note that many other versions of graham crackers and pretzels are not covered in real chocolate, but some brown-colored vegetable fat cutely labeled “chocolatey” or “ fudgy.”  Read your labels.

I had lunch with Seth G., a director of the camp where West End Synagogue has held its retreat for the last three years.  We took a very little time to fine tune our contract for 2016, and then dug into the food at Wok Wok Southeast Asian Cuisine, 11 Mott Street.  Because I was introducing him to the restaurant, we ordered some things that I have already tried successfully.  So, I will only call deserved attention to the curry beef  rice bowl ($6.95), brisket that has bathed in delicious spices for several years, or so it seemed from the tenderness of the meat.  Unfortunately, I had no demands to make of Seth, because the quality of the food had also softened him up.  Instead, we enjoyed the food and each other’s company as we planned for another weekend in the country next June.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
We have no small children and our young grandchildren are hours away.  Yet, I feel strongly, though inconclusively, about the controversy over PS 199, the elementary school right below our window at home.  A couple of years ago, the very bad idea was floated of tearing down the school, building a high-end, high-rise above it, then reinstalling the school on lower floors.  That plan was abandoned, at least for the present.  

By the standard measure of test scores and the anecdotal evidence of our neighbors with children in the school, PS 199 seems to be doing a good job, so good, in fact, that it was recently reported that it “ has the longest waiting list in the city for Kindergarten spots.”  Those children who could not get into PS 199 were first directed to PS 191, nine blocks south.  In New York City, nine blocks might separate two cultures, two nations, two civilizations.  But, you need not even travel that far to step into a different world.  PS 191 sits on the same block as Fordham University’s Law School and its Graduate School of Social Service, one block from Lincoln Center, and half a block from the highly competitive Abraham Joshua Heschel School, a private Jewish school, with annual tuition ranging from $37,700 to $42,000, K to 12.  This year, the New York State Department of Education designated PS 191 as “persistently dangerous,” one of two schools in Manhattan and 27 schools city-wide thus identified.  This resulted from reported incidents of violence with and without weapons, sex offenses, arson and menacing.  Needless to say, prospective and actual PS 199 parents are strongly opposing any connection with PS 191.  Yes, PS 199 has a predominantly white population, and PS 191 has a predominantly minority population.

PS 159 Brooklyn was no more than half a block away for me when I attended first through sixth grade.  Its schoolyard, informally called Delaney Stadium for the dour principal who ruled the school forever, was our destination outside of school hours except when forced away by Hebrew school attendance, dinner or darkness.  It was the quintessential neighborhood elementary school, containing Italian Catholics (some of whom grew up to be the actual Goodfellas immortalized by Martin Scorsese) and Eastern European Jews (some of whom grew up to eat in a lot of Chinese restaurants).  While I attended PS 159, there were only two African American kids, brothers, a couple of years apart.  I recall no other people of color, any color but white.  The school was pacific, thanks in part to Miss Delaney and Mother Ruth Gotthelf, PTA president for a time.

I wish for all New York City schoolchildren the opportunities apparently presented by PS 199 Manhattan, or even the unimaginative but caring atmosphere of PS 159 Brooklyn.  What will it take?  

Thursday, October 22, 2015
Today's New York Law Journal provides an ironic counterpoint to the (probably futile) concerns that I expressed yesterday about public education in New York.  Using public records, the paper listed the ten top spending lobbying clients in New York State, that is groups trying to influence legislation at some level within the state.  Five of the ten, including the top two, are focused on public education.  Four of the five have sappy names, such as, Coalition for Opportunity in Education and Families for Excellent Schools, which tell us nothing of their real agenda.  Only New York State United Teachers makes it clear which side they are on.  

In any case, I wonder whether the spending of $5,006,146 by the Coalition for Opportunity in Education during the first six months of 2015, for example, will improve the lot of the children at PS 191.  A look at their web site seems to indicate otherwise, with its emphasis on an Education Investment Tax Credit plan to aid private and parochial schools.

Friday, October 23, 2015
Just before West End Synagogue honors me at services tomorrow, I learned that another honor has been denied me.  But, first some context.  Recently, Joan Weill, the wife of the Wall Street billionaire Sanford I. Weill, proposed a $20 million gift that would lift the struggling  fortunes of Paul Smith's College in upstate New York, on the condition that it be renamed Joan Weill-Paul Smith's College.  Ms. Weill, a graduate of Brooklyn College, has had her name (with or without her husband's) appended to Paul Smith's College's library, as well as the Alvin Ailey troupe's Center for Dance, the Cornell Medical College, the Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology at Cornell, the recital hall at Carnegie Hall, the building at the University of Michigan housing the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and the concert hall at Sonoma State University, among other edifices.  A judge, however, ruled that the terms of Paul Smith's will (possibly one of the Smith Brothers) precluded modifying the college's name.  So, the Weills withdrew the offer of $20 million yesterday.

I never attempted to keep up with the Weills and, in light of my limited means, I kept my focus on one institution, my alma mater. Therefore, I am disappointed to announce that the proposal to rename the City College of New York to AG-CCNY has been rejected.  In spite of extensive negotiations, no satisfactory arrangement could be achieved, including our last proposal to install a fittingly-named Chinese restaurant in the student union.