Saturday, May 20, 2017

Washington Flu?

Monday, May 15, 2017
"Oslo," the imagined recreation of the events leading to the Israeli-Palestinian agreement of 1993, which I found thrilling, is up for a Tony award as the best Broadway play of the season.  Clyde Haberman, CCNY '62 and the Jerusalem correspondent for the New York Times during that period, discusses the play in light of his own recollections, a very worthy read.  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/10/theater/seeing-oslo-remembering-hope.html?_r=0

By the way, Clyde's daughter Maggie is now one of the chief Washington correspondents for the New York Times.  I'll have to ask Clyde if she liked roller coasters as a child.
. . .

Henry Chung just died.  He brought hot and spicy Hunan cuisine to the United States, opening Hunan Restaurant on Kearney Street in San Francisco in 1974.  I remember eating there several times in the 1970s and 1980s, most memorably with a business colleague whose mostly bald head erupted with perspiration as he plowed through one dish after another of the incendiary cuisine.   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/13/us/henry-chung-hunan-dead.html 
. . .

Speaking of food, and shouldn't we always be?  Berlin, Germany is proving to be one of the rare European capitals where Jews feel relatively comfortable these days.  Both Israelis and Russian Jews have sought it out in contrast to their hectic homelands.  This article describes the culinary angle to this demographic movement.  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/14/world/europe/guten-gefilte-jewish-delicacies-beguile-the-german-capital.html

However, it starts off on an extremely provocative note: "Beige, boiled and usually packed in a gelatinous goo, gefilte fish is not the sort of dish that typically excites foodies."  While that is a fair description of the packaged product, clearly the ethnically ambiguously named Lindsay Gellman did not have an Eastern European grandmother who made gefilte fish from scratch, often beginning with the live whitefish, carp or pike swimming in the family bathtub.  That was a treat for any foodie; witness how the French tart it up with butter and cream, losing the safe haven of a parve designation, and call it quenelles. http://www.nytimes.com/1991/08/04/travel/fare-of-the-country-delicate-pike-quenelles-a-lyons-tradition.html?pagewanted=all  

I have found only one laudatory exception to our grandmothers' traditional labor of love, that is the deep fried gefilte fish that Aunt Judi serves every Passover.  While she claims to purchase it, unlike all the other homemade delectables that cover her seder table, I'll always credit it to her in gratitude.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017
I had a working lunch today with Toni Rabin, event planner supérieure.  For convenience sake, we met at Metro Diner, 2641 Broadway, and I was delightfully surprised by the experience.  It sits across from the deserted Metro movie theater, where I could be found in the balcony as a swooning college freshman.  The diner is a bit bigger than similar urban outposts, but nothing to compare to the sprawling chrome and brass covered suburban installations with their four-pound, plastic-laminated, illustrated menus.      

At the table, Metro made a strong first impression with complimentary cole slaw and real sour pickles that any Kosher delicatessen would be proud of.  I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich on baguette, packed with thick slices of fresh mozzarella and sweet peppers ($14.95).  The fat sandwich may properly be regarded as excellent, even without considering the good quality of the French fries accompanying it.  

What might have been a mundane, forgettable meal, except for Toni's company, turned into a special treat.  It's also worth mentioning that we were not rushed at the height of the lunch hour, although we sat with papers in front of us long after the plates were cleared.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Pio Pio operates several local Peruvian restaurants featuring rotisserie chicken.  So, I was surprised when Stony Brook Steve and I entered the restaurant at 604 Tenth Avenue (a storefront without an address, looking more like a nail salon from the outside) and found something other than a simple chicken joint.  The layout was deceptive.  Behind a small front room was a very long bar followed by a narrow corridor that leads to a balcony overlooking a very large room one story below.  And, this strange layout was almost full at 2 in the afternoon.  Maybe Peruvians have a different lunch hour or don't go to work on Wednesdays.

Not only were the premises much more expansive than I first imagined, the menu offered a broad look at Peruvian cuisine.  There were ceviches and camarones and anticuchos and salchipapa (a large plate of sliced frankfurters and French fries that Steve ordered for $6, an Incan answer to Nathan's).  I had their chicken, half for $9, with a side of rice and beans for $5.  Together it made for a delicious meal.  However, the chicken alone would not have been enough because this was a small bird.  On the other hand, sharing half a pitcher of sangria ($18) also made me more forgiving. 

Afterwards, we headed to St. Luke's Theatre, 308 West 46th Street, a quintessential Off-Broadway venue, to hear a reading of "In a Round-About Way," a new play by Kim Sykes, someone worthy of a paragraph of superlatives, but constrained by time and space, I will simply call a wonderful human being.  Her work is an imaginary encounter between Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave who actually had been a seamstress at the White House.
. . . 

My brother dug up the following article, which provides a fascinating history of baseball cards as background to a major legal case about the right of publicity, the control of their image by professional athletes.  It's perfect reading for us pedants.   

Thursday, May 18, 2017
A note to fans of the New York Mets: The team has been taken over by the New York Rangers, now out of playoff contention.  Despite the dissimilarities in equipment, rules and physical settings, the inability to win when leading late in the game has been easily transferred from one sport to the other.
. . .

Psychiatrists have reopened debate on the "Goldwater Rule," a professional constraint on diagnosing public figures (politicians) without direct examination.  This seems to be a natural consequence of the behavior of you-know-who.  But, we don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind's blowing.

Rather, I am concerned about the role to be played by ophthalmologists and audiologists in diagnosing and treating Ryan-McConnell Disease, the inability to see and hear what is going on in front of them.  Or, is it a matter for a speech therapist -- how to get up and open a mouth?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Back Talk

Monday, May 8, 2017
In 1992, I said something so stupid out loud that I still shudder when I think about it, even though the people around me at the time seemed to forget it soon thereafter.  Recently, I went further, speaking and acting in a disgraceful manner not likely to be soon forgotten nor easily forgiven.   
. . .

It's interesting that Representative Jodey C. Arrington, Republican of Texas, defended work mandates at a congressional hearing for food stamps by quoting the Bible: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”  How many Republicans in Congress therefore should be starving as a result of their performance during the Obama administration?  
. . .

In the 1950s and early 1960s, CCNY and the other local municipal colleges operated under a speakers' ban, specifically excluding leaders of the American Communist Party from speaking on campus.  Political activism in those day was almost exclusively left-wing and the speaker ban was the frequent subject of protest, typically student government resolutions in opposition.  In my rise to second tier prominence in campus affairs, I was the chairman of a nearly inert speakers' forum.  One evening, the president of student government called me to announce that the speakers' ban was lifted and that Benjamin Davis, then secretary of the Communist Party, would appear under my involuntary sponsorship.  Davis came a few days later and spoke without imperiling the city, the state or the federal government.

Today's campus speech controversies have seemingly turned the issue inside out.  We in New York, as well as the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley in 1964-65, fought an administration, usually in league with local politicians, that restricted speech on campus.  Where there was violence, it came in Berkeley from the authorities arresting almost 800 students in the middle of the night on   December 4, 1964.  Frankly, back in New York, we never drew the numbers or the heat.  

Now, instead of oppression from the top down, free speech on campus is being occasionally infringed by threats and actual violence from the ground up, as it were.  What was once an exercise in political theory has been replaced by issues of crowd control.    

Ironically, Benjamin Davis's actual appearance at CCNY drew almost no audience and, unlike some of today's pot stirrers, received no payment.  My advice to protesters -- Stay away; ignore the provocation; produce your own event; turn your back; don't take the bait.  Let the rotted out tree fall in the forest, unheard.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Michael Ratner and I had lunch at Szechuan Garden, 21 West 39th Street, one of several locations of a local chain.  This Szechuan Garden had its closely-positioned tables fully occupied throughout the lunch hour.  Maybe the other patrons had better luck or made wiser choices, because we wound up with well-prepared, very expensive food without much character.  We started with spicy sesame noodles ($5.95), the only special thing that we ate.  The prawns with spicy garlic sauce ($25.95) consisted of some big, delicious prawns at the extravagant cost of about $5 each.  The shredded duck with scallions ($20.95) had much more vegetables than duck.  Like some prospective dates when I was still single, this restaurant was GU, geographically undesirable, too far from Chinatown.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017
I went to Citifield to see the Mets play the San Francisco Giants.  I came away with a healthy glow from sitting in the sun all afternoon and deep disappointment in the result.

Thursday, May 11, 2017
Stony Brook Steve and I went to Shorty Tang Noodles, 98 8th Avenue, operated by the late Shorty's grandson.  Shorty is credited with introducing/creating/popularizing cold sesame noodles, one of my favorite dishes.   https://ny.eater.com/2011/11/2/6639857/a-family-history-of-shorty-tangs-cold-sesame-noodles

Shorty held forth at Hwa Yuan, 42 East Broadway, which opened in 1968 to great acclaim.  The building converted to a branch of  the Bank of China after his death, but now is about to be reopened by family members as the Hwa Yuan restaurant.  The noodle shop is physically distinct, but   expressly shares Shorty's legacy.  However, when it comes to the cold sesame noodles served at the noodle shop today ($8), the rickshaw has passed by.  They were ordinary, served in a modest portion.  They didn't have the spicy tingle of the noodles at Szechuan Garden and never approached the classic peanut buttery flavor of the noodles at Shanghai Asian Manor, 21 Mott Street (September 25, 2015), possibly the best in the Western Hemisphere.  

We also had a good, greasy scallion pancake ($5); sticky rice with short ribs ($8), which seemed to have substituted yams for rice; and (hot) noodles with Peking spicy (in name only) sauce ($10), made with chopped pork.  Service was very good, in a sleek, tastefully decorated space.  The 14th Street stop of the A, C and E trains is right outside and I would suggest staying on the train one more stop to West 4th Street, changing for the B or D train Brooklyn-bound, going two stops to Grand Street, putting you at Heaven's Gate.      

Friday, May 12, 2017
I cringed when I read today: "It's often said that the most important qualities in a chief executive are character and judgment."  Was this another probe into the evident deficiencies of the leader of the Free World, the most powerful man on Earth, the man with his finger on the nuclear button?  Well, this time we have a moment's respite from contemplating the one who tells it like it isn't.  The article focused on the chief executive of Barclay's Bank, who has made only "two missteps that have resulted in shareholder protests and investigations."  Amateur! 
. . .

The attached is provided in case your life has been missing a picture of a man with a Richard Nixon tattoo on his back.   https://nyti.ms/2q3GZBg

Sunday, May 7, 2017

NOLA

Monday, May 1, 2017
It may not be appropriate on May Day, the traditional holiday of rebellion, to refer to F. Scott Fitzgerald's comment that the very rich are different from you and me.  It first appeared in 1925 in a short story entitled "The Rich Boy," and evoked a famous rejoinder from Ernest Hemingway, "Yes, they have more money," in Esquire Magazine in 1936.  

I never doubted Fitzgerald's insight and thought it wiser than Hemingway's.  I don't know whether the very rich are different before they become very rich, or if they become different when they become very rich.  This all came to mind this weekend in an article in the New York Times real estate section about strategies for selling high end real estate.  "To introduce the sale of an $11.75 million, four-bedroom penthouse in Midtown, Tara King-Brown and Amy Williamson, two associate brokers from the Corcoran Group, ditched the evening cocktail party, the industry’s tried-and-tested event, and instead held a morning meditation class in the building’s common-area yoga room."  Imagine that.  Close your eyes.  Breathe deep.  Sign a check.  That never would have worked on Pitkin Avenue in Brooklyn.

In line with the traditional view of May Day, Paul Hecht, the prominent thespian, sent me the following clip, which seems to contain every living Communist in Israel a decade ago.  http://forward.com/fast-forward/370514/watch-old-jewish-lefties-sing-the-internationale-in-yiddish/
From appearances, it is likely that the room would be almost empty today.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Art Spar and I went to Excellent Dumpling House, 165 West 23rd Street, the second version of the Chinatown stalwart at 111 Lafayette Street.  It's about twice as large as the original, with room between tables that cannot be found downtown.  It also operates at about 75% of capacity at lunchtime, while the Chinatown edition rarely has a seat open at the mostly communal tables until late in the day.  

Most important, the food was good.  The menu is relatively simple, only familiar parts of familiar animals.  We shared steamed pork dumplings ($7.50 for 7); steamed crabmeat and shrimp dumplings ($6.95 for 5); pastrami wrapped scallion pancake ($10.95); fried Hong Kong noodles (lo mein) with chicken and shrimp ($13.95).  The scallion pancake, almost identical to what La Salle Dumpling Room serves (April 28, 2017), only swapping pastrami for beef, was especially good, but the absence of mustard should be addressed.  Prices, as you can see, are much more midtown than Chinatown.  

The newspaper today contained a disturbing story that is becoming increasingly familiar: "Police in Texas Change Account in Officer's Fatal Shooting of 15-Year-Old,"  page A12 of the New York Times local edition.  A suburban Dallas cop's claim that he shot at a car that was approaching him in an "aggressive manner" was contradicted by the local police chief, who said that a video showed the car moving away.  The dead youth was a passenger in the car, a good student and a good athlete.   What intrigued me was the missing information -- the color of the cop and the color of the teenager, no reference, no inference.  Consider the possibilities: White cop kills white teenager; white cop kills black teenager; black cop kills white teenager; black cop kills black teenager.  Each version sets up its own drama.  Follow ups, unfortunately, reported the unfortunately predictable   details.  I must note that my initial reaction to the missing elements says a lot about me, how I have been conditioned to stories such as this.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017
The Upper West Side's Power Couple headed to New Orleans for the second weekend of the annual Jazz & Heritage Festival.  Other than having our request for seats across the aisle from each other, our favored flight pattern, ignored, placing a hefty young man between us, the trip down was uneventful.  Then, we landed and stepped into a logistical nightmare.  Hundreds of people stood on the taxicab line, without one taxicab in sight.  So, I made the decision to buy tickets for the airport shuttle, undeterred by the warning of a 30-minute wait.  Well, it wasn't a 30-minute wait; it was a 90-minute wait to get on a van.  Having landed on time at 5:30, we arrived at our hotel at 8:30.

Several times during the delay, I spoke to Abby, the pleasant reservationist at Marcello's, 715 St. Charles Street, a long-established, family-run Italian restaurant, each time pushing back our reservation.  We finally settled on a 9 o'clock reservation, which we kept with very rewarding results.  We ate in the high-ceilinged front room, with large windows framing the street cars frequently passing by.  The back room had hundreds of wine bottles on open racks, feeling like a museum of the grape.  

While the menu held few surprises, execution was of a high quality.  For instance, the Caesar salad ($9) was simply excellent, even if no anchovies stuck there little heads up.  A ragu of wild boar and boar sausage accompanied my fettuccine ($25).  America's Favorite Epidemiologist had eggplant Palermo ($16), discs of breaded eggplant, served with angel hair pasta dressed with oil and garlic.  Instead of dessert, we drank and forgot the inconvenience upon arrival earlier.   

Thursday, May 4, 2017
We spent the after at the fairgrounds, normally a racetrack, enjoying a wide variety of music, blues, gospel, zydeco, rock'n'roll and Mardi Gras Indians, with their elaborate, handmade costumes.  


Heavy rains for days left pools of slippery mud, but that evening our hotel kindly provided old towels to clean our shoes with, leaving only the prospect of some modest dry cleaning upon our return to the Holy Land.

Dinner was at the Bon Ton Café, 401 Magazine Street, claiming to be the oldest Cajun (not Creole) restaurant in New Orleans.  Historical accuracy aside, they did a very good job.  After the deeply experienced waiter explained the difference between jambalaya and etouffee (both $27), rice cooked in with the crawfish or served on the side, I chose the etouffee and enjoyed it thoroughly.  The meal ended with their deservedly famous "Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce and Butter Pecan Ice Cream à la mode."  What nerve endings the bottle of Pinot Grigio consumed with dinner left unaddressed were warmly saturated by the whiskey sauce. 

Friday, May 5, 2017
Today was warm and sunny, some of the mud at the fairgrounds drying up for better footing.  The schedule presented a dilemma for me, however.  First an organizational note.  The event, labeled Jazz Fest, is conducted at 11 venues scattered over the fairgrounds amid   countless stands offering food, beverages, artifacts, T-shirts and recordings.  Performances begin at about 11:30 AM and continue to near 7 PM, staying in daylight for safety and logistical reasons.  Each venue had some programming consistency, so you might stay rooted to one spot through the day if you wished to focus on one genre or roam stage to stage for variety.

The last show on today's Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage (fais do-do translated as either Cajun dance party or hush-a-bye baby, but the context dictates the former), running 6:00-7:00 PM, is Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas (the finest small musical ensemble since the Modern Jazz Quarter).  However, we have hard to get dinner reservations at Pêche Seafood Grill, 800 Magazine Street, for 7:30 PM.   What to do?  What to do?  

Salvation came at 2:50 PM, when Jeffrey Broussard & the Creole Cowboys took the Fais Do-Do stage for a 55 minute set of zydeco music.  While not at the imperial level of Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas, they did justice to the genre and left me satisfied enough to get to dinner in a timely fashion.

Other than the noise level in the packed restaurant,  Pêche provided an excellent experience.  We shared hush puppies ($6), not usually a Sabbath evening dinner staple.  I ordered two small plates, although the portions could have passed as nearly main courses (each $12) -- ground shrimp with lo mein in a spicy Szechuan sauce and "fish sticks," delicately fried pieces of a sweet, white fish with aioli.  My young bride swooned over grilled tuna covered in an olive tapenade ($27).  If I had to miss Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas, Pêche made it worthwhile.

Saturday, May 6, 2017
Before our evening flight home, we enjoyed brunch with a Brooklyn-born first cousin and her husband, now entrenched in NOLA, and a Baton Rouge second cousin and her husband.  We untangled some of our familial ties, and delightfully tangled some others.

Note -- We had excellent accommodations at Le Pavillon Hotel, 833 Poydras Street, which lacked only one amenity, a business center or public computers.  Therefore, these ruminations come to you a bit later than usual.

 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Lincoln's Doctor's Dog

Monday, April 24, 2017
Last week, in response to my discussion of crosswords and other puzzles as a safe harbor from the randomness and confusion of the modern world, friend Cindy (a/k/a Ciel)   recommended  "Thank You for Being Late" by Thomas Friedman "as a continuation of your search for answers."   Actually, as a Jewish existentialist my search centers mainly on my next good meal.  I don’t believe that there are any transcendent answers, even if at times I might wish that there were.  Solving puzzles is comforting, but not life defining.   

Saturday night, we saw "Oslo," a creative non-fictional account of the events leading to the 1993 agreement between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, culminating in the historic handshake on the White House lawn between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat.  In a message to a friend later that night, I described the play as "thrilling," the same word appearing in the headline of the New York Times review a few days earlier, which I skipped in order to preserve my own initial impression.   https://nyti.ms/2pcIrkY
Well, we were both right.  Only warmongers should skip this production, although they prevail in the long run.  

I came across an old, interesting study of the supposed influence of titles on book sales, produced by a vanity press (self-publishing service) as a guide to its authors.  http://www.lulu.com/static/pr/12_15_05.php

While the sponsor has an interest in publishing as many books as possible, the study seems to have been conducted with some rigor.  It examined the title of every hardcover fiction bestseller (per New York Times) from 1955 to 2004, compared to less successful works by the same authors.  It concluded that "Sleeping Murder," the last novel published by Agatha Christie, had the perfect title and that John le Carré had the "best" collection of titles.  

However, I'm skeptical about the predictive value of the findings, identifying three differentiators among 11 variables.  I think that book choices are substantially based on familiarity with or reputation of the author and reviews.  Movies may not necessarily benefit from "good" or snappy titles, but I believe that "bad" titles may deter attendance, putting aside the Disney oeuvre and anything "Star Wars."   Without any other information, would you spend money on current releases, such as, "Slack Bay," "The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki," "Rupture" or "Ghost in the Shell"?  
 
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
The Boyz Club met today at XO Restaurant, 148 Hester Street, in honor of Mark Nazimova's birthday.  In fact, we pretended to let him order for all of us.  We wound up with scallion pancake with curry sauce, pan fried dumplings, steamed dumplings, Hong Kong-style spring rolls, chicken fried rice, lo mien with braised black mushrooms and oyster sauce, and beef chow fun with black bean sauce for $11 each, with every dish good or better than good.    
 
As Tom Adcock, Michael Ratner and I walked to the subway together, we came across Penquin Ice Cream, 143B Hester Street, and we were moved to explore.  Penquin is one of a new crop of Asian ice cream shops that make their product in front of you on super-cold metal discs, looking like leftover pizza pans.   They smoosh and chop and scrape and fold and shovel the contents around, starting with six basic flavors and over two dozen mix-ins (bananas, kiwi, lychee, Oreos, Cheerios, sprinkles, marshmallows, M&Ms, graham crackers among others), finishing with a choice of toppings and sauces once the mess has hardened.  This results in a medium-sized cupful of pretty good ice cream for $7.  As a business, though, it's not going to be a winner, unless it's a money laundering scheme for nefarious Asian enterprises, since it took several minutes to create each serving.  While there were two pizza pans available for use, only one of the two Penquins on the premises seemed to be smoosh-chop-scrape-fold-shovel qualified.  Go by yourself and be patient.  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017
I came across Korean Express, 807 Lexington Avenue, by chance.  It's a long, narrow room, bereft of character.  Almost half the floor space is taken by the cooking and prep area.  18 small tables take the rest of the room.  Service is efficient from a friendly staff, but the food is the main attraction, good and cheap, at least for the lunch special.  For $9.95 you pick two main dishes; I had spicy chicken and bulgogi, thin sliced steak in a predominantly soy sauce sauce.  You also get a side dish; jab-chae (glass) noodles for me.  A lot of good food, at a reasonable price.  

Thursday, April 27, 2017
Urbanspace is a food court at the northeast corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and East 45th Street, near Grand Central Terminal.  Ignore the nominal street address of 230 Park Avenue, if you want to get there.  I recently visited Mr. Bing there (April 4, 2017), late morning and had the place to myself.  Today, however, hundreds of people 1/3 my age were packed in, eating tacos, lobster rolls, hamburgers, sushi, hummus, pizza and almost anything else that could be pushed across a counter quickly.  

I decided on a sandwich at Mayhem & Stout, its name a mystery, although there might be a link to some of the 8 brews on tap.  M&S describes itself as an "artisan sandwich company" and that's the heart of its menu.  I had "the Old Timer," appropriately enough, brisket, creamy horseradish and sauteed onions on a soft, 6" roll ($10.10), the flavors clear and present.  It wasn't even too sloppy to eat and I found a seat at the end of one of the dozen or so picnic benches in the center of the room, so I wouldn't have to eat standing up and risk dropping food on my shoes.    

Friday, April 28, 2017
Looking back on this week, I thought that I would be absorbed with learning to say, "Yes, we have a reckless maniac, too" in Korean.  Instead, I kept finding new places to eat, a less consequential, but more satisfying, pursuit.  Today, Stony Brook Steve and I headed north, not quite to Canada, but to La Salle Dumpling Room, 3141 Broadway, proximate to Columbia University, Barnard College, Manhattan School of Music, Union Theological Seminary and Jewish Theological Seminary, although, as Steve pointed out, the latter is least likely to provide patronage to this little Chinese restaurant.  

La Salle (the intersecting street) has a simple menu, some appetizers; soup dumplings (xiao long bao); steamed dumplings; pan fried dumplings; noodles, in or out of soup; and, a dozen familiar main courses.  We assembled an excellent combination of cold sesame noodles ($7.95), chicken dumplings in a spicy vinaigrette ($8.50) and beef and scallions wrapped in a scallion pancake (burrito-style) ($8.95), elevated by a schmear of hoisin sauce.  La Salle's prices are high according to the CSPI, the Chinatown Standard Price Index, but, if you are either matriculating or heading to Montreal, it's worth a visit. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Square Peg Seeks Square Hole

Monday, April 17, 2017
I was moved by a comment in this short essay about mathematics.   https://nyti.ms/2oepdry    The author describes his engagement with KenKen, a kind of puzzle involving putting numbers in boxes, "when . . . all the pieces fit nicely together and you get this rush of harmony and order."  I get that same feeling from my regular bouts with crossword puzzles and Free Cell, a computerized card game, as well as my occasional games of KenKen, Sudoko and their variants.  For a moment, the complex and weird world assumes an order, a pattern, a rhythm that you can move to fluidly.  Without these moments and the accompanying feeling of accomplishment, I think that my ability to deal with the many daily stresses and strains would be substantially diminished.  I cherish the reassurance, if only for a moment, that things can fit, that there are answers.

Which brings me to this past Saturday's crossword puzzle, 43 Down: School closing?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Sundown brought the end to Passover, 8 full days, not Lent's 40 days or Ramadan's month-long duration.  Each has its own guidelines; Passover excludes broad varieties of food and requires certification of those allowed; Lent requires the giving up of luxuries; Ramadan involves daily fasting during daylight hours.  Religious services attach to at least part of each holiday.

Sundown, the usual beginning or end of Jewish holy days, was officially 7:39 PM in New York City today, a point at which the New York Rangers held a 1-0 lead over the Montreal Canadiens in the fourth game of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Just as the journey across the Sinai Desert was perilous for the Israelites, the Rangers faced difficult moments until they eventually succeeded by a score of 2-1.  The Passover story contained in the Haggadah, read at each of the two seders that begin the holiday, directs us to see ourselves as though we left Egypt, to experience the feelings of slavery and liberation that characterize Exodus.  Well, it might not be the same thing, but I was at Madison Square Garden for the game. Amen.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Wednesday is the day that the New York Times includes a food section in the daily paper, including restaurant reviews and recipes.  Today, it has a feature on the typical day of a local food cart vendor.  https://nyti.ms/2oS2Lrt

The article claims that there are "more than 10,000 people, most of them immigrants, who make a living selling food on the city’s sidewalks: pork tamales, hot dogs, rolled rice noodles, jerk chicken."  To celebrate this, I had lunch today by Skyway Halal Foods, west side of Broadway between West 70th Street and West 71st Street.  Actually, the use of a name is pointless to identify the food cart, just as the old-fashioned shuls in Brooklyn were known simply by location, such as, the Sutter Avenue shul or the Fountain Avenue shul, regardless of any name that might appear on or above the door.  

In this neighborhood, I patronize the guys between 70th and 71st or the guys at the northwest corner of West 67th Street and Broadway.  The problem they present, however, is the lack of a place to sit down and eat.  My typical order is a combination (chicken and a hybrid beef/lamb mixture) over rice and chopped lettuce with a pita bread on the side.  This costs $6 or $7, maybe $1 more in dense business areas.  Add $1 for a Diet Coke and I usually head to a bench on the islands separating northbound and southbound traffic on Broadway.  

It would have been particularly interesting if the two guys in the cart between 70th and 71st were Egyptian so soon after I celebrated my flight from Egypt, but I only know that they are Muslim, maybe from South Asia, not even Arabs then.  Since Islam emerged thousands of years after the Exodus, there were no hard feelings on either side.

A new book about Hillary Clinton's campaign has just been published and the   review was very illuminating.   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/17/books/shattered-charts-hillary-clintons-course-into-the-iceberg.html

The book is entitled "Shattered," written by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, who have written favorably about Clinton in the past.  After reading the review, I rushed over to my New York Public Library app to line up for an electronic copy of the book.  Well, I beat the rush.  In fact, I beat the library to even offering the book electronically.  Instead, I found that there are twelve other books entitled "Shattered" available for electronic distribution, ranging from a tale of Atticus O'Sullivan, the Iron Druid, "whose sharp wit and sharp sword have kept him alive as he's been pursued by a pantheon of hostile deities" (Kevin Hearne, author) to a novel about criminal psychologist Dr. Sarah Jacobs and the New Orleans underworld figure Jax Fontaine, who "may be worlds apart, but when they're skin to skin, nothing matters but the heat between them" (Cynthia Eden, author).  I'm sure that a fascinating article in The Atlantic or The New Yorker could result from reading, comparing and contrasting them all.  

Back to Hillary's "Shattered."  I was able to reserve a print copy, along with half of the registered Democrats in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island.  NB -- Brooklyn and Queens each have their own library system.

Thursday, April 20, 2017    
Every so often, I forget my roots and aim for a bit of respectability.  Today, I led Stony Brook Steve and Michael Ratner to Pinch Chinese, 177 Prince Street, a restaurant located in a neighborhood now of fashionable boutiques and exclusive galleries, once simply the lower end of Greenwich Village.  Pinch has garnered some very good press and appeared on some prestigious lists.  I found the long rectangular room very attractive, with a bold mural against one wall, red painted chairs on one side and black opposite.  However, lunch may not be the time to really enjoy this place.

A 4" by 11" card is offered to each diner, with a cup of pencils on the table to mark your choice among a very simple set of alternatives.  Three "Mains" set your base price: Taiwanese beef noodle soup ($18), Chicken Sao Bing Sandwich ($18) or vegetarian fried rice ($13), with an optional pork chop at $5.  Then there is a choice of dumplings and salad.  I started with the chicken sandwich, which actually came last, and chose pan fried beef dumplings, very good, and cauliflower and scallion salad, not what I usually dream about, but more desirable than seaweed and tofu, for instance.  Extra dumplings, $5 glasses of iced tea, and $7 half glasses of wine were the only other items on the menu.

My sandwich was good, strips of chicken, shiitake mushrooms, and scallions between two flaky, sesame-coated pieces of flatbread.  The problem was getting it into your mouth, as the floppy flatbread couldn't stand up to the contents.  Eventually, the chopsticks (it would have been cowardly to ask for knife and fork) were used to pick pieces off the plate.  The  on-line and professional reviews of Pinch describe dishes that obviously cannot be seen by light of day, so consider that when headed this way.  

Friday, April 21, 2017
The day started murky, but I anticipated going to my first Mets game of the season with the 48th President of the United States, William Franklin Harrison.   He is only 16 now, but his name alone is worth 200 electoral votes.  Before heading out to the ballpark, we went to Hell's Chicken, 641 Tenth Avenue, an establishment focusing on the Korean method of frying chicken.  Service was very attentive in the long, narrow space, just one storefront wide.  Of course, we were the only customers at 5 o'clock, but I think that our waitress was pleased to have the chance to discuss living in New York after growing up in Seoul.  

William and I shared a 14 piece order of fried chicken, 8 wings and 6 drumsticks ($22, a couple of dollars cheaper at lunchtime).  We got two sauces with that, spicy soy garlic and spicy soy ginger and both lived up to their name.  We added sides of rice, $2 for white and $3 for brown.  The food was very good; it's worth returning to.  Additionally, the menu has a nice selection of Korean specialties that I would like to try, including japche, glass noodles that have thrilled me at other joints.  

[Answer] DOTEDU

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mind The Gap

Monday, April 10, 2017
Having recently finished reading Tim Weiner's fascinating book about Richard Nixon, One Man Against the World, I've just begun his history of the FBI, Enemies.  I found this interesting observation in chapter 6, electronic page 56 (different in the print edition):  "The Harding Administration, from the top down, had been led by men who worshiped money and business, disdained government and law, and misled the American people."  Can you believe it?

The weekend New York Times has a special section on education, featuring articles on the "gap year," usually taken between high school graduation and college entrance.

While I appreciated reading about young people's experiences in Senegal, New Zealand, and Thailand, I reflected on my gapless, homebound education path from high school through graduate school.  Money (the absence thereof), the Vietnam War, a narrow worldview, and cultural inhibitions kept me on Woodhaven Boulevard until college graduation.  Moving to Ithaca, New York for graduate school did little to change the other factors and, in fact, I secured my first passport seven years after being thrown out of graduate school.  While I was very much in need of "finding myself" back then, I traveled no further than Minneapolis, Minnesota and Mount Carroll, Illinois on separate occasions.  I am certain that a gap somewhere along the way would have been very beneficial to me for the same reasons that I never had it.

We are attending the first Passover seder tonight in Massachusetts, at the home of the second and third generations, the first time that they are hosting this event.  America's Favorite Epidemiologist, drawing upon her vast skill set, aided our daughter-in-law Irit in mounting a fabulous meal, in spite of facing the massive handicap of keeping it strictly vegetarian.  I realize that that skirted the outer fringes of Jewish customs and practice, but the presence of four different chocolate-based desserts picked up a lot of the slack.  The menu included vegetable soup with matzoh balls, matzoh lasagna (matzoh replacing the noodles), "Sfongo" (potato and spinach casserole topped with parmesan cheese), butternut squash soufflé, and eggplant moussaka.  Note that Law Professor David's masterful conduct of the ceremony could lead him to be mistaken for an Elder of Zion.  
   
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
We packed up and headed for the Holy Land in order to enjoy the second Passover seder at Aunt Judi's and Uncle Stu's in Englewood, New Jersey, as we have in the past.  Aunt Judi approaches her menu in a more traditional fashion, so, after beginning with the deep-fried gefilte fish (something that reaffirms my Zionism year after year), we were served her famous sweet and sour meatballs; beef ribs, cooked with cranberry sauce, bouillon and onion soup mix; chicken, cooked with French dressing, apricot jam and onion soup mix; vegetable kishke; matzoh kugel with apples; broccoli soufflé; Israeli cous cous, bigger and more assertive than ordinary; rhubarb and strawberry compote.  Desserts included chocolate mousse, chocolate chip mandelbrot, chocolate chip cookies, and almond drop cookies.  It was almost worth 40 years in the desert.  

Speaking of Passover, the New York Times had an essay entitled "Don't Make Passover Too Easy."   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/08/opinion/sunday/dont-make-passover-too-easy.html
It makes the interesting point that the explosive growth of Passover food items, "more than doubl[ing] since 2011, to 52,000 from 23,000," have "made the holiday far less onerous," and thus less genuine.  This parallels the development of products that emulate some of the forbidden fruits of non-Kosher (treyf) cuisine, such as bacon and shrimp substitutes, and products that allow the evasion of the rules, such as non-dairy cheese and non-dairy ice cream which may be eaten alongside meat dishes.  

These trends are consistent with other modern innovations to ease the burden of Jewish observance, for those who take their observance seriously, maybe to an extreme.  For instance, hotels in Israel as well as apartment houses in Brooklyn have Shabbos elevators that stop at every floor, obviating the need to push a button, considered work not allowed on the Sabbath.  Similarly, timers turn on and off lights and appliances on the day of rest, because the ignition of an electrical circuit, akin to lighting a fire, is also banned.  

Why take the trouble?  The essayist says the "challenge of making a meal with so many restrictions serves as a reminder of where Jews have come from and the importance of retelling the story of a time when they were not so fortunate."  This is perfectly reasonable to me and I would honor this as I honor fasting on Yom Kippur, bringing a touch of humility and continuity into modern life.  But, I think that many Jews follow the Passover and Kosher strictures, because that's the way it always was, not unlike our originalists in Constitutional law.  If it was good enough for Rabbi Gamliel, a leading Hebrew scholar of the first century, or Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, signer of the Constitution from South Carolina, it should be good enough for you.  While I cannot claim to channel either the rabbi or the delegate, I would hope that both would accept, if not welcome, change, without abandoning their overarching values, as the world that they knew moved ever faster into new and unpredictable directions.  Overarching values, after all, should not be tied to a time or place.  

Thursday, April 13, 2017
Law Professor David not only led Monday's night's seder masterfully, today he has an essay published in the Washington Posthttps://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/voter-suppression--corporate-style/2017/04/13/bbe62880-1ed5-11e7-be2a-3a1fb24d4671_story.html?utm_term=.2c95d6ec4309

I won't spoil it for you, but our family's legal eagle indicates that some big companies are trying to keep their owners (shareholders) from exercising any control over their property.  Sounds un-American to me.

Friday, April 14, 2017
I can't attest to all of Time Out New York's recommendations for cheap eats, but many are familiar and worth a visit. https://www.timeout.com/newyork/restaurants/best-cheap-eats-in-nyc   Of course, omitting Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, is a near-fatal deficiency, I'm not a fan of Shake Shack and I suggest that you purchase knishes at Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery, 137 East Houston Street, to take home because they usually reheat them in a microwave which eliminates the crispiness of the wrapper.  A few minutes in a hot oven brings out their exceptional character.  

This is the time of year that Jews and Christians alike celebrate enduring traditions -- the Stanley Cup playoffs.  

Friday, April 7, 2017

Don't Bother, They're Here

Monday, April 3, 2017
If you can remember back to election night, the minority president promised that "[t]he forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer."   http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/full-text-donald-trumps-2016-election-night-victory/story?id=43388317

Indeed, the president has made heroic efforts to unforget the forgotten, that woeful sliver of society that is left holding most of the money.  https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/01/us/politics/how-much-people-in-the-trump-administration-are-worth-financial-disclosure.html?_r=0

Let's not forget Betsy DeVos, whose net worth is no less than $580 million.  Tie a string around your finger to keep in mind Gary D. Cohn, worth no less that $253 million. Remember Steven T. Mnuchin, worth at least $154 million.  Promise kept.

Stony Brook Steve and I headed to Auntie Guan's Kitchen 108 (sic), 108 West 14th Street, a bright new restaurant in a neighborhood that continues to be upgraded.  The floor space is awkwardly configured, with 5 booths, 3 round tables and more than a dozen two tops variously pushed together.  All the tables were covered by white butcher paper on top of white tablecloths.  No crayons were supplied, however.  The random arrangement of the tables left a narrow path to get from front to back.  Maybe this was the reason that service was uneven, patience and waving of arms needed to get a pot of tea refilled.   

The food, on the other hand, was commendable.  The menu is an illustrated laminated sheet with pictures that don't always correspond to the captions.  While there were lunch specials, we made a meal of individual items, Fried Dumplings (6 for $6.99), Sliced Lamb w. Cumin & Chili Oil ($15.99 bought a large portion), and Scallion Pancake w. Shredded Meat (chicken) ($7.99).  The scallion pancake was a particular treat, a lot of chicken chunks cooked in cumin and hot oil wrapped in a scallion pancake, much spicier than the lamb dish which advertised its spiciness.  All good.     

Tuesday, April 4, 2017
I had an appointment with my periodontist today.  Having gotten his kids through graduate school, I am now working on a modest villa in Tuscany for him.  The visit, however, was not entirely to my disadvantage.  It gave me the opportunity to go to Mr. Bing's, 230 Park Avenue, a new establishment that offers jianbings, Peking-style pancakes.  Ignore the Park Avenue address if you head that way.  Mr. Bing is one of about a dozen stalls in a food court at the northeast corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and East 45th Street, providing Thai, Italian, burgers, chicken, German, Japanese, soup, coffee, smoothies, pizza, "sushi burritos" and donuts.  

Mr. Bing (apparently a translation of the name of its founder Brian Goldberg), occupies an 8' x 8' booth preparing jianbings to order by spreading a thin film of mung bean and rice flour batter onto a griddle, break an egg on it, add herbs, crisp noodles and roast duck, marinated chicken or roast pork, flip it, roll it and cut it in two.  Three levels of spiciness are available.  I had the roast duck version medium spicy ($15), interesting but not compelling, and only large enough to satisfy a modestly-sized woman.  

Speaking of satisfying a modestly-sized woman, I wonder if Roger Ailes would share the secret of his sex appeal?

Thursday, April 5, 2017
My wife left me today ------- to go to Massachusetts to assist our second and third generations prepare for their very first Passover seder at home.  I will follow in a few days to conduct a final inspection and enjoy their culinary efforts, as Jewish men have done through the centuries.

Alone on this cold rainy day, I followed the path of least resistance, took the subway to Chinatown and had lunch at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street.  Fortunately, they had their lunch soup special, so I was able to have a large bowl of egg drop won ton soup for $2, hot, delicious and brimming with 7 plump won ton.  If I ordered Wo Hop's world class crispy noodles, I could have stopped there, but I chose as my starch shrimp fried rice ($7.95), with hot mustard and soy sauce to add some complexity to the flavor palette.  

Friday, April 7, 2017
I've never liked David Brooks, one of two conservatives regularly publishing op-eds in the New York Times, normally the voice of limousine liberalism.  Too often, his writing strained to add intellectual embroidery to Republican nonsense, rather than offer an independent conservative perspective.  Today, however, I have to admire his piece on the clown-in-chief.  I wish that I had written some of it.

"[T]he personnel process has been so rigorous in its selection of inexperience that those who were hired on the basis of mere nepotism look like Dean Acheson by comparison."
"I worry that at the current pace the Trump administration is going to run out of failure."  
"Trump’s greatest achievements are in the field of ignorance."