Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Week On the Road

Monday, November 13, 2017
The Israeli work week is typically 5 1/2 days, beginning on Sunday and ending midday Friday.  Even in Tel Aviv, a relatively secular city, Friday is pretty quiet and Saturday is dead, commercially that is.  Few restaurants are open, but local beaches and outlying resort areas are busy, and we met heavy traffic returning to Tel Aviv Saturday night.  You could describe it as a city of Jews, but not a Jewish city. 

Physically, I've observed three Tel Avivs.  Most evident are the glitzy high-rise apartment houses.  There must be hundreds of them rising in the last decade, with office towers and hotels nearby.  While the coastline has been a popular target, open spaces to the north and west of the center city have seen the greatest development for these expensive residences, often owned by foreign Jews.  

The more established Tel Aviv consists of over 4,000 International Style, multi-unit buildings constructed between 1930 and 1954 by European architects of Jewish origin, who fled Europe.  They are typically four-story, whitewashed, boxy stucco buildings, with large windows, but no external ornamentation.  While some were torn down over time, most seem to have been extensively renovated or even rebuilt to house an expanding middle class.  

Finally, on Sunday, I became exposed to a third Tel Aviv, the crammed slums and public spaces occupied by about 20,000 refugee adults, predominantly from Eritrea and the Sudan, and their uncounted children.  About an equal number are in other parts of the country.  To escape genocidal conditions, these people move north, either into Egypt or Libya, usually relying on smugglers.  If they get to Libya, they attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, thousands drowning in the process.  If they get to Egypt, they try to cross the Sinai Desert into Israel.  Even though they are mostly Muslim, none Jewish, they view Israel as a safe haven.

Tamara Newman, Director of Resource Development of the Hotline for Refugees and Immigrants, an Australian Jewish immigrant, described the Hotline's work and the conditions addressed, when we met her on Sunday.  

Once, the Israeli government gave these African refugees a welcome reception, seeing a parallel with the plight of European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s.  However, as their numbers grew, they gravitated to South Tel Aviv, next to the central bus station where they were deposited after release from administrative detention.  South Tel Aviv is a neighborhood occupied by poorly-integrated North African Jews, who already felt underserved by the government.  Now, thousands of Africans are either in administrative detention or walking the streets, unable to work legally and subject to detention or deportation, which the Jewish conscience, at least, has been reluctant to carry out.  

Hotline offers vital counseling and legal services, once to Asian and European victims of sex trafficking in Israel, now to these Africans, who are being labeled infiltrators instead of refugees.  Headline in Haaretz, August 31, 2017: "Netanyahu on African 'Infiltrators': We Will Return South Tel Aviv to Israelis"

While we Americans have little to teach the Israelis about handling refugees from tyrannical regimes ever since the Tsar fell, we have one humane policy that they lack.  Children born to refugees in Israel do not achieve Israeli citizenship, but are admitted to public schools.  
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Football Scoreboard
Columbia University        7-2
New York Jets                  4-6
New York Giants              1-8

Tuesday, November 14, 2017
One thing that I love about Tel Aviv is the street names.  Almost every Jew imaginable has a street named after him.  I will resist the temptation of providing an almost endless list of Aronsons and Epsteins and Goldbergs and Kaplans and Rothschilds and Steins, but no Gotthelfs, alas.  Welcome variety is provided by Da Vinci, La Guardia, Lincoln, Rembrandt, and Toscanini.  
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Visiting law professor David walked us around the sprawling campus of Tel Aviv University today, covered with modern buildings for almost every imaginable discipline.  Additionally, Beit Hatfutsot - The Museum of the Jewish People is centrally located on campus.  On our previous visit to the museum 4 years ago, we had just arrived in Israel and were kind of gaga from the flight and time change.  I can recall only about three minutes of that visit.  Today, we were well-rested, alert and relatively energetic, a good thing because the museum had so much to offer.  

Part of the permanent exhibition is a fascinating display of 21 scale models of synagogues from all over, past and present.  Since there never has been a "Jewish architectural style," the exteriors vary greatly and tended to reflect their time and place.  The interiors, however, followed denominational ritual standards, often combined with a decorative veneer that approached psychedelic heights.  

The museum also has four excellent current exhibits:
  • Forever Young -- Bob Dylan at 75
  • Operation Moses -- 30 Years After (the mass movement of Ethiopian Jews to Israel)
  • I’m Ready My Lord – A special performance art display, in memory of Leonard Cohen
  • Capturing History: The Photography of Chim (David Seymour, a Polish Jewish photographer, who recorded everything from the Spanish Civil War to Sophia Loren; killed in the Sinai Desert during the Suez Crisis). 
I'm surprised that I got out of there on the same day.
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I just got the news that Tel Aviv has been named the vegan capital of the world.  Fortunately, this occurred late enough not to ruin my visit.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Annette Crohn, a member of West End Synagogue, recently relocated to Israel to be near her family, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  She also shares a birthday with America's Favorite Epidemiologist, so we made our way to the suburb of Ramat Hasharon for a visit this afternoon, taking buses just like we knew what we were doing.  She has a beautiful two-bedroom apartment, with a drop dead view reaching to Tel Aviv and even beyond to the Mediterranean on very clear days.  In her 90s, Annette swims daily, reads avidly and was eager to hear about our mutual friends on the Upper West Side.  I can't decide who was happier to see whom.  
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Okay, it's what you've been waiting for.  While Israel technically is an Asian country, I don't consider the hummus and shawarma that I've been eating serious Asian food.  So, tonight, we had dinner at Nam - Thai Cook House, Dizengoff Street 275, a real Asian restaurant that lived up to its reputation as one of the best in the city and, by default, the country.  It's a casual joint, which you can say about any restaurant I've seen in Tel Aviv in four visits.  It also got busier as the evening went on, the seats at the bar, the tables on the sidewalk and the dozen or so tables inside all filled up by the time that we were ready to leave.    

The food warranted the activity.  I had chicken egg rolls (29 NIS each or both, the bill was muddled), served with a thick hoisin sauce; and Pad Si U (63 NIS), very wide rice noodles cooked with sweet soy sauce, broccoli, green onion, coriander, spinach, garlic and sliced beef.  Madame had Pad Prik Pao (73 NIS), crispy fish filets cooked with cashew nuts, onion, green onion, dry sweet chili, Thai basil, celery, and carrots.  While the noodles were good, the fish (I poached some) was excellent.  Both were served in very generous portions, not a bad deal at roughly $18 and $21 respectively.  
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My brother just sent me the following article, which so well illustrates the adage that hard cases make bad law.  Actually, I would describe this as a rotten, stinking case.

Thursday, November 16, 2017
The plan was to go to Jerusalem with David and Irit; Phyllis, dear family friend; Nir and Oshrat, cousins several times removed; and Uri, local friend, for an extensive walking tour.  Believe it or not, we all got to the Jaffa Gate to meet our guide Yomi on time, and spent the next 5 hours weaving through the narrow streets and up and down the stairs of the Old City. 

I won't try to repackage the sights, sounds and smells of this fascinating place.  Whatever your belief system (and I would recommend agnosticism), there is so much to experience and learn even after many visits.  I will provide one tip, although it may lead you on a wild goose chase.  A little Arab man, in an alley off an alley of the Christian Quarter, bakes mutabak, a very thin crêpe wrapped around a tablespoon of goat cheese, brushed with olive oil before baking and drizzled with honey.  

If you are lucky enough to find Zalatimo, you won't want to rush off to another destination.   
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Back in Tel Aviv for dinner, we had very good fish and seafood at Shtsupak, Ben Yehuda Street 256.  No, I don't know how to pronounce it.

Having made one gesture towards my Asian food obsession last night, after dinner I stopped at Vaniglia, Yermiyahu Street 23, one of a small chain, to make a dent in my ice cream Jones.  I had two scoops in a cup (21 NIS), Snickers and chocolate chocolate chip, the latter probably replacing Berthillon Glacier, 29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île, 75004 Paris, France, as the all-time best chocolate ice cream in the galaxy.  

Friday, November 17, 2017
Our return flight is near midnight, so I have a chance to look back at some of our better meals.
Yashka - Binyamin, Nahalat Binyamin Street 73 -- Middle Eastern, Kosher, walkup counter.  I had shawarma. One of two branches.
Jeremiah, Dizengoff Street 306 -- Pub/café, non-Kosher.  I had chicken schnitzel sandwich.
Micha's Hummus, Ben Yehuda Street 191 -- Hummus, hummus and more hummus, vegetarian, Kosher.  I had Hummus Mangold (mixed with spinach).
L'aile Ou La Cuisse, Ben Yehuda Street 226 -- Beef and chicken, Kosher.  I had half a roasted chicken.  Translation: The wing or the thigh, named for a 1976 French comedy film.  Sister restaurant at  33 Rue Greuze, 75016 Paris, France, owned by the manager's father-in-law.
The Bakery, Dizengoff Street 262 -- French bakery and café, one of 5 branches.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Dairy Diary

Monday, November 6, 2017
The weekend had a variety of pleasures.  On Saturday, we were able to visit a dear and beautiful friend in the hospital, or in hospital as they say in the London.  Then, joined by Robina Rafferty, the soul of charity, we went to dinner at La Barca, 80-81 Lower Marsh, Lambeth, a fine Italian restaurant.  Not only did La Barca offer very good food and wine, and very attentive service, but Derek Jacobi sat down for dinner one table over.  To his credit, he did not stare at us.

On Sunday, we went to a matinee performance of The Comedy About a Bank Robbery, a wonderfully silly farce, brilliantly executed as the British are wont to do.  The delight generated by the performance was necessary after the disappointment at lunch.  As you are well aware, the London theatre (their spelling) district is immediately adjacent to their Chinatown, and you know what that means.  While I have enjoyed other restaurants there, I chose to research a new alternative and came up with the well-reputed (until now) Leong's Legend, 39 Gerrard Street.

The long, dark room, meant to resemble a traditional wooden house, was crowded, as so many other restaurants in the neighborhood seemed to be on Sunday afternoon.  We were seated and then the waitperson, obviously taking waiting very seriously, left us alone for 10 minutes.  Some vigorous waving finally got her attention and we gave her a relatively simple order: hot and sour soup for one (£3.50), steamed vegetarian dumplings (£7.50), scallion pancake (£??) and "Signature Taiwanese Oyster Omelette" (£10.50).  The soup was very good and, like Hikari's Friday night, served in a very small portion.  I guess that hot and sour soup is a rare and expensive delicacy in London, even though you get it for a buck or two in the Holy Land.  

While I've lost the price of the scallion pancake, it was quite good, though smaller than I am used to.  The dumplings presented no problem also, but it was getting that Signature that fouled things up.  Did you enjoy the oyster omelette?  What, you never got it?  Me, too.  After 45 minutes and reminders to 3 waiters, either the chicken or the oysters could not be convinced to cooperate.  On the other hand, the Signature Taiwanese Oyster Omelette appeared on the bill, which took only one glower to correct.  

Fortunately, on the way to the theatre, we passed a Pret A Manger, omnipresent in London, and I pulled a freshly-made hoisin duck salad wrap (£3.75) off the shelf, a good deal in any currency.  
As I said, the theatrical farce made up for the culinary farce and in a few hours we were ready for another meal.  Lord Kennington, f/k/a David Brodie, stooped to my level and, upon request, suggested Fishcotheque, 79A Waterloo Road, for fish and chips.  And a very good choice it was.  Madame had a "regular" order of cod (£10.95) and I had a "large" order of haddock (£13.95), each accompanied by a large pile of chips (French fries), closer to American crispiness than British mushiness.  
. . .

Football Scoreboard
Columbia University          6-2
New York Jets                    4-5
New York Ghosts (Giants have disappeared) 1-7
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While Fishcotheque was a fine example of its kind, today we went to the other end of the British dining spectrum, with appropriately superlative results.  We ate at Outlaw's at The Capital, 22-24 Basil Street, Knightsbridge, the Michelin-starred dining room of The Capital Hotel, an elegant establishment that I have never penetrated beyond the ground floor restaurant.  On my first trip to London in 1985, I gave myself a big treat by going to the restaurant, not yet bearing Chef Nathan Outlaw's name.  I have returned many times since for the near-bargain fixed price lunches.  Today, it was 2 courses at £29 and 3 courses at £33.  

I started with Duck Scrumpet, thereby adding a new word to my vocabulary.  It was, in fact, a croquette, served with an interesting homemade ketchup.  Madame had the Cornish Fish Soup, which had a touch of orange.  Outlaw's features fish, so I had "Hake with Roast Chicken & Mushroom Dressing and Smoked Leeks."  Allow me to explain that the "Dressing" was a pureed something, not particularly evocative of chicken or mushroom.  The hake itself was excellent, cooked just right.  My young bride enjoyed "Plaice with Tartare Sauce & Sprouting Broccoli."  Believe it or not, we skipped dessert.  Really, that should read: Believe it or not, I skipped dessert.

Service was exquisite, as usual.  What differed from past visits, however, was the casual dress of the male patrons, who were almost the only patrons.  Short sleeve polo shirts predominated.  The quartet of men at the next table gave gaudy jewelry a bad name.  

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 
Last night, we saw Ink, an excellent new play about the rise of Rupert Murdoch.  While we were unfamiliar with some details of British politics and journalism at the time (1969), the themes of "populism" and "disruption" struck very close to home.  
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British Air and El Al, the most likely candidates to offer efficient service from London to Israel, could only deliver us to Tel Aviv at 3 o'clock in the morning.  So, we flew EasyJet, a bargain airline that charged for each piece of luggage, seat selection and anything to drink, in exchange for a very convenient flight time and low fare.  They avoided putting turnstiles on the toilets, however, so, in all, a reasonable compromise.

We were in our rental apartment in a residential area of North Tel Aviv by 7:30 PM and visiting the second and third generations a few short blocks away by 8.    

Wednesday, November 8, 2017
It was announced this morning that Anthony Scaramucci will visit Israel on November 19th.  His host, the CEO of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, said, "Our excitement to partner with Anthony Scaramucci in this quest knows no bounds."  The good news is that we will have left by then.  
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Here is an attempt to understand why so many mass shooting take place in the US as opposed to other countries. 

In summary, the answer seems to be, because they can.
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Thursday, November 9, 2017
On Tuesday, we left London and flew to Tel Aviv.  In London, the British pound (£ or GBP) was worth about $1.30 (USD).  Shopping was pretty easy.  Pretend that the number of pounds is the number of dollars.  Cappuccino at Pret A Manger (as reasonably-priced place as you will find in London) £2.35, not bad.  That delicious hoisin duck salad wrap £3.75, a real bargain.

In Tel Aviv, 1 USD is worth about 3.5 shekels (NIS for New Israeli Shekels, no symbol), or 1 NIS equals 28-and-a-half cents ($.285).  So, I go into a supermarket and pick up a container of milk that's either a quart or a liter, priced at 10.90 NIS.  I think that may be a lot, even by New York standards, but I have to stand in the aisle for a few moments doing the calculation.  Then, I look at the box of Special K that will be the center of my breakfast for the next few days -- 29.90 NIS, over $8.50, twice the conventional New York price.  

Prices probably reflect the cost of importing merchandise and the tax regime.  No doubt military spending is an important component of Israel's budget.  As of 2015, Israel was third in the list of per capita military spending at $1,882, just ahead of the US at $1,859.  The United Kingdom was eighth at $1,066 (appropriately).

However, when viewed as a percentage of its national economy, the burden of Israel's military weighs heavily.  According to the CIA's reporting, not entirely current, Israel's defense spending was fifth in the world at 5.69% of gross domestic product (GDP).  The US was ninth at 4.35% and the UK 28th at 2.49%.

I've never had a feel for macroeconomics, so I can only observe that Israel has an expensive army and breakfast cereal, while the UK has the Queen, and Queens, New York has the Mets.  Living in Israel also offers the privilege of being admitted to all the local country clubs.  
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Not only am I challenged by the local currency at the supermarket, but I can't even seem to get that expensive quart or liter of milk right.

When I poured from the container on the left into my coffee (and that's another story how the Israelis flock to cafés for high quality coffee, while serving mostly instant at home), I got what Little Miss Muffet got, curds and whey; not what I was expecting.  Yes, it was laban, a fermented milk product, close to yoghurt, not named for Jacob's father-in-law.  It might have been obvious to any local school child, even without the benefit of going to Stuyvesant High School, CCNY, Cornell University or Cardozo Law School.  With this information, I am obliged to set the record straight about the price of milk.  My liter of laban was 10.90 NIS.  Had I reached for milk, it would have cost 5.60 NIS, that is $1.60, a reasonable price, with or without a great air force.
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While New York prices compare favorably with London and Tel Aviv, an e-mail from Jon Silverberg reports on one example of wretched excess back home.  In the golden oldie days, Jon and I often ate at Hwa Yuan, 42 East Broadway, until we saw a very big rat run across the room.  After the owner died, probably before the rat, the restaurant closed in 1992.  Now, the family has renovated the bank building that took over the location and reopened Hwa Yuan as a fancy three-story operation.  Jon, impatient for my return, went to lunch there alone yesterday.  Orange Flavored Beef cost $28, twice as much as anything comparable in Chinatown.  I'm not rushing home for that.     
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Friday, November 10, 2017
Even if the only English-language television here seems to be episodes of 30 Rock, uninterrupted by commercials, we are not out of touch with events in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, although the 5,676 miles separating us has a palliative effect.  I think that future generations will cherish the wisdom of Jim Ziegler, Alabama State Auditor, commenting on the Washington Post report of Republican senatorial candidate Roy S. Moore's conduct with a 14-year old, when he was a 32-year old assistant district attorney.  Moore allegedly "took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes.  He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear."

Ziegler (a Jewish name?) said, according to the New York Times, that the girl's age was “the only part that is concerning.”  Had the girl been 16 at the time and not 14, he added, “it would have been perfectly acceptable.”  Burying suspicions about his ethnicity, Ziegler went right to the top.  "[T]ake Joseph and Mary.  Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter.  They became parents of Jesus.”

Saturday, November 4, 2017

There'll Always Be a Bagel

Monday, October 30, 2017
Several of us made a small effort this weekend to fill the large loss of Stanley Feingold, the CCNY American government professor, who kept educating us for more than 50 years after we left his classroom.  About 50 people gathered at Bar Boulud, 1900 Broadway, to eat, drink and schmooze about our memories of him.  It was not only his absence that distinguished this event from the periodic lunches that we shared with him over many decades.  We were better dressed, more polite and focused on our admiration of him, a topic that he would have immediately squelched, a denial of free speech that he would never otherwise countenance. 
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I lived in a single-family home for less than 4 years of my life.  Although I endured two infestations of bees, two mudslides down my vertical backyard and one backed up plumbing system, which taught me the meaning of Roto-Rooter, I didn't exactly hate the experience.  However, I had little regret fleeing the property and the marriage that went with it. 

I imagine that most Americans posit the single-family home as their desired residence, a symbol of independence maybe as potent as automobile ownership.  The weekend's real estate section profiles the newly-constructed single-family home market.  Most had 3 bedrooms or more; 3 bathrooms were most typical.  The outright majority were built in the South, although many may have to be rebuilt after the current hurricane season.  The median size was 2,422 square feet and sold for $316,200.  More details at
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I sent this finely-crafted letter to the New York Times book review section last week.  "Condoleezza Rice's discussion of the Russian Revolution in the Book Review seems to incorporate some of the associated turmoil.  She cites 'The Anatomy of Revolution' by one Brinton Crane.  However, the author was Crane Brinton.  Admittedly, the WASP custom of eschewing real first names could lead to such confusion."  Unfortunately, the book review stole my thunder by printing a tepid correction yesterday.
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Accusations of sexual predation, now exploding globally in almost every area of human activity, are frequently countered by blaming the victim.  However, there is never an excuse for stepping outside the bounds of civilization to exploit another human being.  I cannot ignore, though, the instinct for self-degradation shown by some women, even in the absence of rapacious men.  This is the subheading of the story below, addressed to the presumably sophisticated female readers of the New York Times: "The prostitute, courtesan, sex worker — all as presented in popular culture — are exerting a strong influence on the looks you may want to wear now."  Why?  
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Sports Scoreboard
Columbia University    6-1
New York Jets             3-5
New York Giants          1-6

Tuesday, October 31, 2017
In case your trust fund is underutilized, here are New York's Michelin-starred restaurants for 2018.   It seems that each year I fall further behind in the I-can't- believe-that-dinner-cost-that-much department.  

While I personally can't keep up with local expensive restaurants, the country as a whole is possibly growing weary of having just too many places to eat.  

The articles states that "[t]here are now more than 620,000 eating and drinking places in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the number of restaurants is growing at about twice the rate of the population."  Chain restaurants account for much of this growth, as Americans spend about 44 cents per food dollar in restaurants.  For better or worse, the proliferation of low cost, fast food restaurants probably offers their own low paid employees a rare option for dining out.     

Wednesday,  November 1, 2017
Some airlines, such as El Al, Lufthansa and JetBlue, name individual aircraft after a city in their home country.  Virgin America takes a more whimsical approach, with planes named "An Airplane Named Desire," "My Other Ride is a Spaceship," "Scarlett O'Air" and "Spruce Moose."  Now, Deutsche Bahn, the German state railway system, has aroused harsh criticism by planning to name a new high-speed train after Anne Frank.  The connection of railroad cars and the Holocaust is still vivid and raw.  Anne and her sister Margot were deported by train from Amsterdam to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Germany, where they died.  The railroad claims that it "made a deliberate decision to help keep Anne Frank’s memory alive."  

As I write, I not reached a conclusion about this.  Maybe you wish to tell me your opinion?
. . .

One of the branches of Grand Sichuan was located at 307 Amsterdam Avenue until recently.  I found it inferior to its homebase at 229 Ninth Avenue and its sister spot at 123 Canal Street, gone with the building that once housed it.  So, I was optimistic about its replacement, Lily's 74.  The interior has been redone, bright and simple.  The bare walls are painted white above waist-level wainscoting, dark brown as are the tables and chairs.  Off-white ceramic tiles cover the floors.  Lighting comes from cylindrical pendants.   

I skipped the two dozen lunch specials, either $8.95 or $9.25, including rice and soup, and ordered hot and sour soup ($3.45) and sesame cold noodles ($5.95), not available as a lunch special.  The soup was excellent, just what I needed for a stuffy head on a chilly day, except the tiny bowl was vastly over-priced.  The good noodles, by contrast, were fairly priced.  
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Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a leader in its field, has the motto "More science, less fear."  Today's paper has the headline "Pruitt Ousts Scientists From Panels At the E.P.A."  Less science, more fear.
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Tavish McMullen and I were not the only ones comparing bagels recently.  Grub Street, a reliable web site under the aegis of New York magazine, has its say.

Whether a bit of a joke, it finds Absolute Bagels, 2788 Broadway, has the absolute second best bagel in New York.  The Tablet, a general interest magazine with a Jewish perspective, has an update on the fate of Absolute Bagels, which it considers second to none, that is when it literally cleans up its act.  No joke.

Friday, November 3, 2017
The Upper West Side's Power Couple are off again.  We are flying to London during daytime hours today, a change from the usual overnight over-the-ocean journey.  We expect to be settled in our hotel in time to watch Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers, if they happen to be on British television when they are supposed to be.  In any case, this narrative will resume from over there.
. . . 

The trip to JFK was uneventful, but I became concerned when we got our gate assignment.  A3 was the first gate on the left, past the over-priced M&M store.  There were hundreds of feet of passageway stretching ahead that we did not have to traverse.  What was wrong?  Had they gotten our reservation wrong?  Was this a case of mistaken identity?  Why were we being spared the inconvenience of walking the last mile and then some to get to the aircraft? 

I did not press the matter and settled into a comfortable flight across the Atlantic.  However, the balance of equities was restored once we got to Heathrow.  The plane pulled up near the Welsh border and it took a friendly shepherd to direct us towards London.

We dashed in and out of our hotel room in no more than three minutes, hungry to enjoy dinner in the land of bangers and mash, fish and chips, and steak and kidney.  Fortunately, not a hundred meters away or a fortnight or some other obscure unit of measure was Hariki Sushi & Noodle Bar, 2 Kennington Road, Lambeth.  We   aimed at the noodle side of the menu with very satisfactory results. My young bride had vegetarian pad Thai (6£), while I dug into a very large portion of "Malaysia Style Stir Fried Ho Fun" (the wide rice noodle a/k/a chow fun) (6.80£).  It had eggs, scallions, shrimp, pork, bean sprouts with some hot pepper flakes mixed in for a kick. Mission accomplished.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

It's How You Play the Game

Monday, October 23, 2017
My favorite headline for the weekend, maybe the week or the year:
"To Complain Is to Truly Be Alive"
. . .

Football scoreboard
Columbia University      6-0
New York Jets                 3-4
New York Giants            1-6

While we New York Giants fans are understandably upset by these results, surprisingly so are some Columbia University partisans, unused to success.

I have had mixed feelings about Columbia University.  As an undergraduate at CCNY, not even one mile away, a tuition-free institution then renowned as "the proletarian Harvard," I resented the "rich kids" at Columbia, that is those able to pay even a little towards their college education.  

Eventually though, I came to be surrounded by Columbians.  America's Favorite Epidemiologist got her masters and doctorate at Columbia, as did my brother; stepson David got his bachelor's degree there and his brilliant wife received her law degree from Columbia.  While I eventually graduated from CCNY, Cornell University and Cardozo Law School, I missed adding a fourth C for a Columbia degree.  So, for now, I am rooting for Columbia to march to the national college football championship game and beat the University of Alabama handily.  
. . .

Last week, I had the pleasure of hearing Professor Deborah Dash Moore discuss her new book Jewish New York in person.  Right afterwards, the library got me a copy an earlier book by her, the deliciously titled GI Jews.  

Having interviewed more than 30 Jewish war veterans, starting 50 years after the war's end, and with access to letters, diaries, and published and unpublished memoirs, she lets the men, including her father, speak for themselves to a great degree.  We learn about confronting ham and eggs for breakfast for the first time and entering a concentration camp where "[b]odies lay everywhere, with no way to distinguish between the living and the dead."

Professor Moore concludes that "Jewish veterans took from their years in service new understandings of their place in America . . . [and] earned respect as Jewish men, in their own eyes and in those of other servicemen."  Read the rest of the book.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Tavish McMullen, safely returned to Key Largo, Florida, reports on the cookies that he carried back home from the Holy Land.  Levain's "was very soft and had a doughy texture when you bit into it.  I agree that it feels like you are eating a huge helping of butter, but I enjoyed the rich flavor and gooeynish.  I did find a glass of milk was required. . . . [Regarding the Jacques Torres cookie,] I believe this is still the best chocolate chip cookie around.  The cookie is firm with a great ratio of chocolate to cookie in each bite.  The chocolate is great giving off a similar rich taste as their hot chocolate and not too sweet that it overpowers the flavor [of the] actual cookie.  It can be enjoyed on its own and at the same time holds up well being dipped in a glass of milk."  That's another generation heard from.  

Wednesday, October 25, 2017
R.I.P. Fats Domino.  The following provides a good overview of his work with musical accompaniment.
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For those of us who graduated college in the 20th century, it may be too late to make a career change, but here is a very interesting look at job growth and decline over the next decade.  

It's no surprise that we geezers will require an increasing number of non-professional healthcare workers, while "Locomotive firers" (coal stokers?), Watch repairers and Telephone operators will get lonelier.  I only hope that the decline in need for Respiratory therapy technicians results from the increased employment of Solar photovoltaic installers and Wind turbine service technicians, at work supporting the production of clean energy thereby lessening air pollution.  

Thursday, October 26, 2017
I assume those responsible for creating the advertisement below were interested in selling men's clothing to the general public.  However, giving even a cursory glance at the cut and fit of the suit the young man is wearing, I can only conclude that their intent was sabotaged somewhere along the way.  What we see is a poor fellow who has not gone shopping since experiencing a dramatic growth spurt.  Maybe that's meant as an incentive to go out and buy new clothes, so as not to be caught in the same embarrassing pose.

Friday, October 27, 2017
Tom Terrific and Stony Brook Steve joined me at Mee Noodle Shop, 795 Ninth Avenue, serving the closest approximation to Chinatown food outside of Chinatown.  Tom and I shared crispy anise duck rolls ($5), cold noodles with sesame sauce ($6.50), pan fried seafood dumplings ($8.25 for five), and Singapore ho fun (another name for chow fun) ($9.25).  Only the duck rolls failed to delight.  Steve had a lunch special of tofu with lobster sauce ($9.25), which included brown rice and a superb egg roll in his estimation.

Note that Mee's takeout menu differs considerably in format from its in-house menu.  Each seems to have almost the same food and prices, but the headings and organization widely vary.  The takeout menu is more fun to read, containing almost 400 distinct items, sure to arouse hunger even in the sated.  
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"Is Bridge a Sport? E.U. Court Says No" because it was “characterized by a physical element that appears to be negligible.”

This ruling came from the European Court of Justice and addressed an issue of taxation; sports events avoid certain taxes, other events do not.  There is no indication whether similar determinations have been made about synchronized swimming, ice dancing and a variety of events where people "ski off a ramp that propel them into the air where they perform multiple somersaults and twists before landing."  The latter activity arose, no doubt, to spitefully aggravate parents who drove hours into wintery locales, spent a lot of money on expensive outfits and equipment, rented comfortable quarters and paid for orthopedic services.     

Judges in these Olympic so-called "sports" award points, often to two decimals, based on characteristics opaque to an ordinary human being.  Admittedly, they are contests and require athletic skill, but they ain't sports.  Bridge is a sport.  Teams oppose each other; high card beats low card; you'll pardon the expression, but trump beats all other suits.  There are no subjective standards of form, difficulty, or finesse involved.  Bridge players keep score; it's that simple.    

Finally, anyone who follows any real sport knows that mental errors often make the difference between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  And, bridge is decidedly mental.  Plus you have the physical challenge of sitting on a bridge chair (where do you think they got the name from?) for hours and days.  A social game might last for a couple of hours, while a major tournament might go on for a week.  Try that on your tuchus.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Welcome to New York

Monday, October 16, 2017
Tavish McMullen is visiting from Key Largo, Florida, or what remains of it.  He arrived Saturday and we set off on a whirlwind tour of Manhattan by land, air and sea.  From Palazzo di Gotthelf we took a bus crosstown to Second Avenue and walked to the Roosevelt Island aerial tram.  We rode it over the East River with a large crowd of other curious people.  We walked around Roosevelt Island and found that the tram wasn't the only way to get off the island.  There's a new (to me) ferry service on the East River ranging from Astoria to Rockaway Beach.  For $2.75, the same price as a subway ride, we took the ferry to Wall Street, stopping in Long Island City and 34th Street.  It took 30 minutes, which went quickly in the mild, pleasant weather.  Sitting on the open top deck, I even got a sunburn.   
From Wall Street, we walked a mile to Chinatown, not just Chinatown, but Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, the cathedral of Chinese food.  At 4:30 in the afternoon, we had to wait to get in, a very worthwhile wait.  We only needed the large portions of beef chow fun ($7.75) and shrimp egg foo young ($10.25), with a bowl of brown rice ($1.75), to fill us up and put a smile on our faces.

The subway got us back uptown, leaving out only helicopters as a way to get around the Holy Land. 
. . .

Our sports report
Columbia University    5-0 
New York Jets.             3-3
New York Giants.         1-5
. . .

Tavish and I went to lunch today at Ess-A-Bagel, 831 Third Avenue, at his request.  He recalled that I took him there in the past when I lived on the East Side.  In fact, I probably averaged 40 visits a year for most of my inter-marital period, 1980-2003.  These days, I typically bring home bagels and accouterments weekly from Fairway Market, 2131 Broadway, which I did on Sunday when Dean Alfange visited.  Tavish had gone off to brunch with friends, so he missed a treat.    

I was thus able to compare Everything bagels.  While both are much larger than bagels used to be in my youth, I generally adhere to Mae West's teaching: "Enough is never enough."  I liked the dough and chewability of Ess-A-Bagel more, but, unlike Fairway, its Everything includes kosher salt crystals sprinkled on top, leaving you thirsty until the next meal.

Ess-A-Bagel was convenient to our next stop, the United Nations, on First Avenue, where we booked a guided tour.  Admission to the UN is free, but 1 hour tours available in several languages cost $22 for an adult, $13 for us enfeebled elderly.  The tour was interesting, but yielded no policy insights for the few of you who still read newspapers.  

We walked through midtown to Num Pang, 1129 Broadway (26th Street), now one of six branches of a local Cambodian sandwich chain.  We both had the Ginger Barbeque Brisket sandwich, served on toasted baguette, with pickled shredded carrots, cilantro, chili mayonnaise, and cucumber slices ($9.75).  Seating is on bright orange metal stools grouped at high rectangular tables with butcher block surfaces.  The somewhat battered walls and floor of this joint must be the holdover from an earlier operation, one that must have been around for a long time.  The high walls were covered with square white ceramic tiles bordered by green tiles; the floors had a similar pattern in mosaic tile.  Both surfaces needed significant repair or replacement.  

From Num Pang, we went right next door to Rizzoli Bookstore, 1131 Broadway, relocated from its classic spot on West 57th Street after 29 years.  Professor Deborah Dash Moore, University of Michigan historian, was discussing her new book Jewish New York: The Remarkable Story of a City and a People.  This work is a restatement of the three volume City of Promises: A History of the Jews of New York, which she co-authored.  I asked whether she considered titling the book New York Jews instead of Jewish New York, akin to the ongoing question of identifying us as American Jews or Jewish Americans, she replied that she wavered on this point, but choose the less edgy title.  I'll have to read the book, maybe even buy it.

Next stop was Monday Night Magic at the Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal Street, in the heart of Greenwich Village.  This weekly show has been going on for 20 years, with a different cast each week.  I admit to being a sucker for good magicians and there were several on stage and in the audience during intermission.  Best of all was Eran Raven who concluded with pulling a paper out of a sealed envelope, which had remained in sight during his act, containing a set of numbers and letters, that turned out to be the serial number of a dollar bill taken from a random member of the audience by another random member of the audience (unlike the present administration, no hint of collusion).  We were impressed.  
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My young bride had caught an earlier flight and was already home when we returned for a happy reunion.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017
I gave up the formal study of science many years ago, but with Tavish as my lab partner I proceeded to Zucker's Bagels & Smoked Fish, 146 Chambers Street, to compare their Everything bagel to Fairway's and Ess-A-Bagel's.  I patronized Zucker's regularly when still working at the courthouse nearby and ordered the poppy seed bagel consistently with happy results, but today's mission focused on the Everything bagel.  It was a little smaller than the other two Everything bagels, a little denser, a blander dough and no salt topping.  It's not a bad or disappointing bagel, it just does not go to the head of the class.   

We were downtown on our way to the 9/11 memorial site.  Outdoors, where the twin towers stood, there are excavations exactly at their location, with waterfalls dropping into what appears to be bottomless pits.  The walls surrounding the waterfalls are engraved with the names of all known victims in or around the buildings, on the airplanes, and at the Pentagon.  I was moved seeing the sheer volume of names and the heterogeneity they conveyed.  Victims came from as many as 90 countries.

We took a guided walking tour of the grounds first, the Official 9/11 Memorial Guided Tour ($17), 45 minutes giving an informative introduction to the physical setting.  Then, we walked a few feet to the 9/11 Memorial Museum and encountered some unnecessary confusion.  Having looked on-line a few days earlier, I purchased tickets for the 9/11 Tribute Museum, which turned out to be a discrete enterprise located 5 blocks south of ground zero, not the 9/11 Memorial Museum, considered effectively to be the "official" museum.  Admission tickets for one were of no use at the other; $17 on Groupon for the Tribute Museum, adult $24 and senior $18 at the Memorial Museum.  We spent some time at the Tribute Museum, but chose to return to the Memorial Museum for 2 hours, a fraction of what is needed to see it all.  There are a variety of packages combining the outdoor tour, Memorial Museum admission with or without guided tours.  I recommend seeing some or all of it, but, unlike me, check carefully in advance on what there is on offer before purchase.  
. . .

The subway took us to midtown, where we ate dinner at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 129 West 38th Street, as a launch point for what came later.  First, Tavish and I had combination corned beef and pastrami sandwiches on rye ($17.99), piled high and particularly good tonight.  From there, we walked the few blocks to Madison Square Garden to see my beloved New York Rangers play the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Yeah, they lost.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Since Tavish was leaving in the afternoon today, we were less adventurous.  At his request, as someone who spent many years in Chicago, he asked to have "New York pizza" for lunch.  Therefore, we went to Patsy's Pizzeria, 61 West 74th Street, one of its three locations.  We had a large pie ($20 for 17"), with meatballs ($3.95) and mixed roasted peppers ($2.75) added.  

On the way back to Palazzo di Gotthelf, we stopped at Levain Bakery, 167 West 74th Street, and Jacques Torres Chocolate, 285 Amsterdam Avenue, so that Tavish could supply himself with great chocolate chip cookies for his return to the outside world.  Levain bakes butter-soaked golf balls ($4), while I prefer Torres's 4" flat discs ($3, higher for some versions).  He left shortly thereafter, resisting the temptation to sample his purchases at least until he got on the airplane, as far as I could tell.  

Thursday, October 19, 2017
On the fifth day, I rested.
. . .

Speaking of chocolate chip cookies, I have just learned from Danny Macaroons that She's the First, an organization devoted to the education of girls in poor countries ( is sponsoring a competition among about 20 of the Holy Land's top bakers, including Levain and Jacques Torres.  It will be held on November 4th at the Strand Bookstore, a confluence that is almost unbearably exciting.  But the good news is more than balanced by the bad news.  I will be away at the time and, were I not, the event sold out almost immediately, before I even knew of it.

Danny, whose medium is macaroons not cookies, nevertheless is invited to participate in recognition of the quality of his efforts.  I hope this events recurs at a time and place available to me and you.  

Friday, October 20, 2017
More chickens are coming home to roost.  Yesterday, there was news of a chocolate chip cookie contest and today the New York Times attempts to get to the heart of the bagel.

It's almost embarrassing to be ahead of the curve so often, but it's the least that I can do to repay the public that provided me a tuition-free education from PS 159 through CCNY. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Do the Right Thing

Monday, October 9, 2017
It's hard to be (racially) colorblind in American society, maybe impossible.  At times, I admit to being impatient with or exhausted by the racial prism that either distorts or clarifies our view of reality.  Since I am on one side of our racial divide, that occasionally puts me at odds with the other, no matter how I might strive to be fair, open and tolerant.  Anecdotal evidence of racial discrimination sometimes evokes mixed feelings -- there they go again (black squawkers) vs. there they go again (white bigots).  

A new study restores my perspective, at least for a time.  Based on 20,000 e-mails, the rate of response to routine inquiries to government offices by typically white-named people is consistently higher than for black-named people.  

Taking the trouble to discriminate in responding to an e-mail inquiry is gratuitously cruel especially under the most benign conditions.  "Justice, justice, you shall pursue."  Deuteronomy 16:18
. . .

This week's football report
Columbia University          4-0 
New York Jets                    3-2
New York Giants                0-5
. . .

In a 1839 United States Senate debate, Henry Clay famously said “I had rather be right than president.”  Currently, we have the complete opposite.  

Tuesday, October 10, 2017
In a strange way, I think that it is kind of romantic that a divorcing couple would go to court over possession of ice hockey season tickets.  There is love there, although maybe misdirected.
. . .

Scott Pruitt, the Administrator of the Environmental Destruction Agency, announced that "the war on coal is over."  Okay, now I can concentrate on the war on Christmas.
. . .

It probably took a formidable public relations effort to get this laudatory article about Acme Smoked Fish's whitefish salad.

While the production process is interesting, I cannot endorse Acme's result.  It supposedly contains only whitefish and mayonnaise, but it is mushed to such a degree that it emerges as a salty paste.  Fairway Market, 2131 Broadway, is at the pinnacle of the whitefish salad world and should be your destination for this delicacy.  

Wednesday, October 11, 2017
A play daringly entitled Junk is in previews at Lincoln Center.  We went to see it last night with the Goldfarbs; the Weinsteins were unable to join us.
. . .

The MacArthur Foundation announced its "genius" grants today, $625,000 fellowships.  I understand that the president removed his name from consideration because he did not need the money.
. . .

It was undoubtedly a spiritual quest that brought many of you to my modest exertions.  Holy Writ is an essential component in the perpetual search for truth, beauty and justice and I am pleased to refer you to a new bible -- The Macaroon Bible by Dan Cohen a/k/a Danny Macaroons, who, unlike many others, left Great Neck when he left Great Neck.

Thursday, October 12, 2017
America's Favorite Epidemiologist abandoned me today, leaving me to my own devices and the Ciao Bella blood orange sorbetto in the freezer.  I hope that America's Loveliest Nephrologist and the Oakland Heartthrob appreciate what they are getting, if only for a few days. 

Friday, October 13, 2017
This link shows an amazing sample of the devastation caused by the California wildfires.
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I was fortunate that Gil Glotzer, retired attorney to the stars, was able to meet me for lunch on his quick visit to the Holy Land.  We ate at La-Salle Dumpling Room, 25 West End Avenue, a joint that is continuing to satisfy.  We shared cold sesame noodles ($7.95), pan fried pork dumplings ($8.50 for 6), beef wrapped scallion pancake ($8.95, 5 slices 1" to 2" wide), spicy chicken dumplings ($8.50 for 6).  All this was so good, Gil was almost in tears thinking about what he left behind in exchange for Florida sunshine.   
. . .

No, Israel -- the moron's action today on the Iran nuclear deal does not make you safer.  It only raises the security threat to other nations to match yours.