Saturday, June 26, 2010

Twenty-Fifth Week

Monday, June 21, 2010
I made a terrible mistake today when I went out to lunch without pen or pencil. I thought I would merely enjoy some good food at Joe’s Ginger, 25 Pell Street, and read yesterday’s book review section. So, what follows is from memory. The first distraction was immediately across the street from the courthouse, where ESPN parked a truck showing its television coverage. It was the break between two World Cup matches, so I saw no need to stand in the direct sunlight watching a tennis match, any tennis match. The truck also sold food, a supposed international variety in keeping with the spirit of the World Cup. While there were shaded benches not far away, I needed a more favorable climate to digest properly.
After a good lunch at Joe's Ginger, I crossed Columbus Park on my way back, as I often do. In the open air pavilion at the north end of the park, usually empty except to shelter card and Chinese checker players on rainy days, there was a concert sponsored by the Manhattan Amateur Art & Columbus Music Association. I came in time to hear a passionate baritone singing about people and places long afo and far away. Even though he was singing in Chinese, I knew it had to be that, because it reminded me of the scene in Godfather II, when young Vito Corleone goes to a concert and sees Don Fanucci, the neighborhood boss, while the singer on stage laments the death of his mother. My Chinese singer was backed by five Chinese fiddlers (the fiddle stands horizontally on the musician’s knee), one violinist, one accordion, one banjo, one flute, one cymbalist, one wood block and what looked like an oboe with a bamboo plant growing out of it. This song was followed by three women wearing red satin pants and white T-shirts imprinted with a red Yin and a white Yang, although I might have that reversed, who danced to recorded music. I wanted to stay for more entertainment, but the need to render justice called.
Finally, the federal courthouse had a major media presence, because Faisal "Give My Regards to Broadway" Shahzad was returning for arraignment. I understand that the morning appearance has been adjourned until late this afternoon when the soccer match between Spain and Honduras would be over. Faisal was understandably upset by the trouncing North Korea got this morning by Portugal, a member of NATO.

Thursday, June 24, 2010
The official high temperature was only 91 degrees today, but it felt much warmer as I wore a suit and tie in order to conduct case conferences for a judge. Lunch was at Jaya Malaysian Restaurant, 90 Baxter Street, which offers Malaysia, Thai and Chinese food. I had Malay Chow Fun, a very good version of one of my favorite dishes ($6.50). The restaurant was also one of the closest to the courthouse at 80 Centre Street where I spent the day. While I walked very slowly under the very bright sun, I took a few extra steps to buy two pounds of cherries at $1 a pound to bring home to my fruit-loving wife.
I did encounter a noticeable gap in the day, however, a small cluster in the center of the crossword puzzle caused by inserting nicknolte instead of nicholson. I never recovered from this blunder.

Friday, June 25, 2010
Separation Anxiety Day. Boaz, David and Irit packed up and left Astoria today for Massachusetts. We took Boaz for a 3 ½ hour diversion to get him out of the apartment while the movers packed up all the family’s worldly goods in case they mistakenly stuffed him into a carton with sofa pillows. He remained unpacked and we were, of course, sad to see them go.
There was another unfortunate by-product of the Tau-Webbers’ departure from Astoria. Now, there will be little opportunity to patronize Little Morocco Restaurant, 24-39 Steinway Street, possibly the best purveyor of falafel sandwiches in North America. Little Morocco sits in a stretch of Steinway Street loaded with hookah cafés and Arab restaurants. Since Boaz is too young to enjoy a hookah, we’ve often gone to the simple setting of Little Morocco, which was four short blocks from his home, and where we always got a friendly reception. Boaz, a somewhat picky eater as befits his station in life, always dug into the falafel on pita we ordered ($4). Drinks were never an issue, either. Whatever I was drinking is what he wanted, thereby developing a precocious taste for Diet Coke and Orangina.
Some joy reentered my life at night, when I went to the Mets-Twins game. Mets 5, Twins 2.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Twenty-Fourth Week

Monday, June 14, 2010
America’s Favorite Epidemiologist and I took the day off from work to go on Boaz patrol, because his parents had to be out of town. After a visit to the Queens Zoo, we went to visit Grandma Ruth in an area of Queens known to cartographers as Gotthelf Acres. She delights in watching Boaz march around her apartment where he knows a large jar of M&Ms sits in the refrigerator. In a drawer that used to hold many of my prized possessions, I found my Cornell University student ID card, a red plastic rectangle with my photo, name and such laminated on it, along with punches, as you would get on a railroad ticket from the conductor, for each semester in attendance. Besides the youthfulness of my photograph, I noticed something about my head which, as many of you have observed, looks like a basketball. In the photograph from the Fall of 1962, my head is shaped like a football, that is, elongated and sort of pointed at each end. It may have been the angle of the camera or something in the reproduction process, but the difference is evident. I hope the next time I try to go to a fraternity party, no one looks too closely at my ID.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Did you know that gas ranges purchased in this century have motherboards controlling temperature, time and cooking functions, and that these motherboards can burn out, and that a gas range purchased in 2003 can have a motherboard that is no longer manufactured, and that the absence of a working motherboard prevents you from using your oven for cooking, and if you want to use your oven for cooking you have to spend at least a thousand dollars to get a new one? Now you know.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010
I went to Mei Li Wah Bakery, 62-64 Bayard Street, for lunch. It is more of a café then a bakery, serving dim sum to order, congee, rice and noodle dishes. I had a very good rice noodle shrimp roll along with a baked roast pork bun and fried sticky rice with chicken, basically a clump of sticky rice with a modest chicken filling rolled in an omelet. With the temperature near 80, I drank a Diet Coke instead of tea. All together, it cost $8.55.

Thursday, June 17, 2010
A big day, today. It is America’s Favorite Epidemiologist’s Birthday, and America’s Loveliest Nephrologist is flying in from California to spend the next few days with us. I love when the two of them get together, because I can watch anything on television and take anything out of the refrigerator without being noticed.
The Jewish people have faced extraordinary challenges over the centuries, yet kept on. So, my election to the Board of Trustees of the West End Synagogue last night should be viewed in perspective.
After this excitement, lunch was an afterthought, but by chance I hit a winner. New Malaysia Restaurant, Chinatown Arcade # 28; that places it right in the middle of the passageway that connects the Bowery and Elizabeth Street, between Canal & Bayard Streets. I ordered honey- glazed steak with fried rice ($6.95) and received a very generous portion of both. The meat was flank steak, chewy as you expect flank steak to be, but not gristley or fatty. There was 4 or 5 pieces about ½ inch thick, easily ½ pound of meat, in a sauce that was barely sweet, more tangy. First rate. This was knife and fork food and even the young Chinese couple at the next table were eating the same dish the same way I was.
Even as I ate this excellent dish, I was staring at the Western man seated with four friends at another nearby table. He was wearing a short sleeve shirt, and, at first, I was only able to see part of the tattoo on the back of his left upper arm, which read: SOME MADNESS IN LOVE. I kept shifting around to try to see up his sleeve to read the start of the message. Only when he stood up to leave was I able to see: THERE IS ALWAYS SOME MADNESS IN LOVE. But, the back of the other upper arm continued with: THERE IS ALWAYS SOME REASON IN MADNESS. The Internet quickly informed me that this is a quote from Nietzsche, which I did not know until after I finished my honey-glazed steak with fried rice.

Friday, June 18, 2010
This turned out to be a near-great lunch hour, not just a good lunch hour. I headed back to Jing Fong Restaurant, 20 Elizabeth Street, that wonderful, massive dim sum emporium. Right after being seating with 4 Chinese women, A, B, C and G (which I’ll explain in a moment), I noticed that about 1/4 of the restaurant was curtained off and music was coming from that private section. I was hoping for a wedding or at least a bris, but it was merely a retirement party if you can call "mere" a group of 300 or so guests. Back at my table with A, B, C and G for Granny, but apparently the mother of C, these middle-aged women provided live sport in the absence of television sets showing the World Cup. Jing Fong, as is current dim sum practice, marks a card at your setting with every dish served. The card is divided into space for small, medium and large dishes, with prices fixed by category. Additionally, there is room for special dishes and their special price. The card is tallied and becomes the check. As their lunch ended, the ladies started battling over the check, a custom I’ve frequently witnessed before by Chinese men. A and B snatched the card back and forth. Finally, B grabbed on and held in spite of A’s shrieking. With A distracted, C slapped a 5 dollar bill on the table as a tip. This angered A, who got out her own 5 dollar bill, grabbed C’s 5 dollar bill and shoved it into G’s handbag. G registered no protest as A proclaimed her victory, although I thought they should have tipped $10 considering how much they ate including special orders from the kitchen, but I kept quiet. While B was listening to A, C grabbed the card from B and left the table to pay before another round-robin began. Several times I offerred to throw my card into the middle of the fray, but no one seemed interested.
Walking back to the courthouse, I looked in the window of a variety store and was attracted to "Bubbles Super Gun," a battery-operated soap bubble shooting gun with LED lights. I knew that Sunday’s Gotthelf-Poloner-Webber (strictly alphabetical you understand) Bye-Bye-Boaz-BBQ absolutely required this. Now, I have to get home on the subway without being stopped and frisked.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Twenty-Third Week

Monday, June 7, 2010
The experience at Hon Café, 70 Mott Street, is almost the exact opposite of the Lobster Boat Restaurant, where I entered cautiously last week and exited delighted. The front of Hon Café is a busy bakery with cakes, pastries, bread and a large selection of savory buns to rush home with for your own dim sum lunch. In back is the comfortable restaurant with eight booths and three long tables seating two to eight people. Without looking at the menu I ordered combination fried rice and tea, aiming to keep it simple. The bill came to $16.66, tip automatically included. The merely okay portion of fried rice cost $9.95 when $6.95 would have been appropriate, and tea $3.50 when I accepted the waitress’ suggestion that jasmine tea would go good with the rice. Walking slowly past the sticky gooey confections in the front bakery on the way out did only a little to restore my equilibrium.
Looking over the mangoes and cherries at a grocery store on Mulberry Street, I easily spotted durian, the odorific fruit. It looks like a cross between a large coconut and a pine cone. Intact, there was no smell until I put my nose to the stem or stalk when I was able to get a slight unpleasant whiff. It cost $1.60 per pound. The typical durian seemed to weight about three or four pounds. I controlled my curiosity under the circumstances.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010
I spent most of my lunch hour scurrying around trying to add to my backscratcher collection without much success. So, I dropped into Dragon Land Bakery, 125 Walker Street, for a quick bite. This a retail bakery with about 20 stools to perch on. It sells savory items, as well as cakes and pastries. I had a tiny chicken pie and a curry beef bun. The amount of protein in each was very small, but so was the price, about $1.25 per.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010
America's Favorite Epidemiologist came over to my world, literally and figuratively, this evening in order to go to Small Claims Court at 111 Centre Street. In spite of the efforts of the arbitrator, a private attorney who eases the burden on the sitting judge, we left after three hours with the matter unresolved and an adjournment date of September 13th. Fortunately, Nha Trang Centre, 148 Centre Street, was nearby on this rainy night, so we had some good Vietnamese food before heading home. The case itself isn't that interesting, a fender-bender with a taxicab, so I'll withhold comment until after the next court date or I think of something funny to say about it.

Friday, June 11, 2010
Max, the pride of Belarus, came by for lunch. We chose Italian over Chinese, but spent a lot of time walking up and down Mulberry Street searching for a restaurant that was cooler inside than the street outside. Although it was a mild day, the humidity was high and I needed to find a comfortable spot to enjoy lunch. Even if the restaurants had their airconditioning on, they had their doors wide open to lure tourists who were very thick on the ground. We found a table near a big floor fan in a pizzeria and shared a pie. Max came to the USA in 1993 and we have attended Mets, Rangers, Knicks and Giants games together. However, he remains a skinny kid, not yet ready for professional eating.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Twenty-Second Week (The Beat Goes On)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Today is the first day of the rest of my blog. Fortunately, I had to return two DVDs to the library, but our local branch does not have night deposit capability. The same was true of the Murray Street branch, a block or so off my regular path downtown from the subway. The Internet, of course, told me that there is a library branch at 33 East Broadway, in the heart of what I call Chinese Chinatown, that is, an area devoted to the needs of relatively recent immigrants, mainly Fuzhouese, rather than the tourist Mecca of Mott Street and vicinity. To get to 33 East Broadway, I had to pass Dim Sum Go Go at 5 East Broadway, the best choice for dim sum solo. I ordered the assortment, 11 pieces differing in color, texture, shape, contents. What a treat.
Walking back to the courthouse, now laden with two pounds of red cherries (2 lbs for $3) and one pound of bananas ($.49), I heard the sound of a pounding drum and I followed it to 11 Mott Street, where the Lobster Boat Restaurant was being opened with the proper fanfare and feng shui. I knew that where there was a drum there would have to be a dragon and, indeed, there was one chasing the evil spirits away from the front door of this new joint. Five men clanging cymbals accompanied the man pounding the kettle drum combining for a cacophony that surely chased away the evil spirits, awakened the dead, and took the paint off nearby walls. Tall plants decorated with red ribbons inscribed in gold wishing Mazal Tov to the new venture, which I will see the inside of pretty soon.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Happy Birthday to America’s Loveliest Nephrologist.

Thursday, June 3, 2010
The venerable Dean Alfange writes: "At your last stop, the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, you mentioned that one of the flavors they offered was durian. I had never heard of anything called durian, but, on the basis of Wikipedia’s evaluation, I think you were wise to pass it by. Then, by total coincidence, I happened to pick up, for a pleasurable diversion, a book by S.J. Perelman, in which there is a passage that described Chinese ‘tucking in rice mixed with trassi, compared to which even the durian is attar of roses.’ From which I concluded that Wikipedia’s assessment was probably accurate and that you were certainly sensible to select different flavors. You did not say whether trassi was also one of the available flavors."
It was only a matter of time, 48 hours actually, before I went to the brand-new Lobster Boat Restaurant at 11 Mott Street. I had watched the dragon, drummer and cymbalists (synonym for semioticians?) operating on Tuesday, and I imagined that the evil spirits have long fled the vicinity by now. Conflicting spirits, however, greeted me when I entered the restaurant by walking down a flight of stairs. Crowding the entrance to the small restaurant were 20 or so tall plants, 4 to 5 feet, with red ribbons inscribed with golden messages presumably wishing the owners break a chopstick. The staff, however, seemed only as animated as the plants. Many of the patrons, all Chinese, were looking around for someone to serve them. I stood for a few minutes as unnoticed as I might be, until a waiter pointed me to the empty table I was standing next to. All the tables were covered in red and white checked oil cloth laid over the table top without being fastened. My table covering felt sticky even before I started dropping food on it. The lunch menu was much more interesting than the restaurant’s interior. There were a dozen or so lunches for two people with three or four main courses and another dozen lunches for one with two main courses. All of these combinations included shark’s fin soup, garlic bread, spaghetti or fried rice and dessert. I ordered roast chicken and salt-baked shrimp; I told the waiter to keep the soup and turned away the garlic bread and dessert when they came. This strange behavior, rejecting food, had several roots. It’s hot out today, 85 degrees at 2 PM; garlic bread geht nicht with Chinese food; the dessert looked like whole milk poured into a coffee cup, which I might have delved into if I had not had so much food already. The chicken was a whole roast chicken, a chicken-sized chicken, not a quail-sized chicken, very nicely roasted. The six salt-baked shrimp were not wonderful à la Phoenix Garden Restaurant, 242 East 40th Street, no credit cards (when still in Chinatown, the place where Ed Koch had a mild stroke while eating), but edible. They were served, head and all in the shell, impaled on a wooden skewer giving them impeccable posture. The fried rice was not the real fried rice that I cherish, but okay under the circumstances. To do justice to the chicken, the waiter brought clear plastic gloves to preserve your manicure. I took them away, unused, in case I plan to leave no prints somewhere else. $9.95, an incredible bargain. Better get there before their accountant does. On the way out, I asked a young woman who was spreading garlic butter on the soon-to-be garlic bread why serve garlic bread in a Chinese restaurant. She didn’t know, but the manager said that it was only a half-Chinese restaurant; he was aiming for a broader audience. While my usual approach to menu planning is the more the merrier, I hope he bags the shark fin soup, the garlic bread and the milky dessert, but keeps the chicken coming.

Friday, June 4, 2010
I received an e-mail from Amazon.Com this morning explaining how I can link my blogs to Amazon, so that my readers, stirred into a buying frenzy by my persuasive comments, can simply access Amazon directly from my page. "You might even make some money in the process! Amazon pays an advertising fee to a Blogger user who is a participant in Amazon's Associates Program and whose visitors buy products linked from their blog." I have a better idea, simply send me money.
I did not have to leave the courthouse for lunch, because Unity in Diversity was celebrated in the marvelous rotunda. After some music by a pipe and drum corps and a song or two, the food was unleashed. Every group, organization, society involving court staff at any level had a table with food. Where there was an ethnic basis for the group, the food reflected it. Don't ask me why, but the gay and lesbian group offered desserts.
I sampled, sampled mind you in case any epidemiologists are listening, the following:
Roast beef wrap
Vegetable dumpling
Meat dumpling
Mei Fun
Chicken wing boneless
Chicken wing bone-in
Arroz con pollo
Egg roll
Beef on skewer
Lo Mein
Chocolate chip-cranberry cookie

I skipped some things, such as:
Mozzarella and tomato sandwich
Roast pork
Potato salad
Rice and beans
Macaroni and beef (Greek style)
Spinach pie
Black and white cookie
Irish soda bread, even though the scintillating Mary Elizebeth (no A) Bartholemew was pushing it.
The rotunda was jammed with court folk, including people from other buildings as far away as 71 Thomas Street, my former lair. The density of the crowd caused me to completely miss the Shomrim Society's table holding potato latkes, potato kugel and kasha knish, a typical Hebraic meal consisting of three starches held together by fat. I resisted the woman server's urging me to take some for later, but I promised to return next year for more Unity.
When I left work, on the way to an evening of Boazsitting, I saw a couple leaving the marriage bureau, she in strapless white wedding dress and he in kilts of a handsome dark plaid. He told me, with a wonderfully thick Scottish accent, that he was wearing Gray Bute tartan. See for yourself: