Sunday, September 19, 2010

Starting to sin all over again

Monday, September 13, 2010

It wasn’t Roe v. Wade, but a satisfactory result was achieved last night in Webber v. Stewart, an action in Small Claims Court of the City of New York. When driving across Manhattan Island on a weekday afternoon in March, America’s Favorite Epidemiologist was run into by a taxicab. Only the rear panel of her car was damaged; the adverse vehicle was moving at a slow speed. However, as Cher can attest, bodywork is costly.

The only wrinkle in this case was the denial by the owner of the taxicab that the accident ever occurred. He claimed that he was the only one who ever drove the taxicab and he did not drive it into my beloved’s Lexus. Actually, the light of my life agreed with that contention to a point. He, a short, dark-skinned man of West Indian origin, was not the medium-height, light-brown skinned, South Asian man wearing a turban driving the taxicab that hit her.

The case was conferenced by a court attorney (yes, the sort of thing I did on a regular basis for seven years) who urged the defendant and his attorney to settle, because of the quality and quantity of information that my one and only presented. For your information, New York City’s licensed taxicabs are tracked by a GPS system connected to the meter, so that start and stop time and start and end point of each trip are recorded. Reports are easily gotten through a simple letter to the Taxi & Limousine Commission. The report showed that taxicab 2W29 was in the vicinity of the accident at the time of the accident, one brick in the wall of evidence. The report lacked sound effects, however, so there was no actual evidence of the crash.

Victory, the acceptance of a reasonable payment in settlement, was celebrated at the Excellent Dumpling House, 111 Lafayette Street, a long-time favorite (see February 17, 2010). We enjoyed cold sesame noodles ($4.95) and a scallion pancake ($2.90) and were amused by the sight of three kitchen workers eating their dinner at the next table using plastic forks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Lunch Box Buffet, 15 Division Street, offers about 50 dishes, many recognizable as animal or vegetable or fish, arrayed cafeteria-style. $4.50 buys you a choice of any 4 or maybe 5, with or maybe without soup, and white rice for sure. My confusion was based on my inexpert Mandarin. If you take the food out, it costs one dollar less. The food was good enough, especially the piece of southern (China) fried chicken. As homage to the good efforts of the kitchen workers at the Excellent Dumpling House, I ate my lunch with a plastic fork.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I want wild at Fried Dumpling, Mosco Street, occupying one of the four stools while eating 5 dumplings ($1) and 4 buns ($1); the Diet Coke cost $1.25. The only apparent difference between the dumplings and the buns is their shape. Dumplings are near-crescent shaped like an empanada, crimped along the curved outer edge. Dumplings are round, gathered at the top. All were pan fried and worth every yuan.

Allow me to make two additional excursions this week, not into restaurants, but into ideas.

My favorite jurist, Judge Judy, often says, “Do you get where I’m going?,” usually to litigants who clearly don’t. I have greater confidence in you, the jury, as I recount the following:

One week ago Saturday, whether as an extension of the worship services for the Jewish New Year, or mere happenstance, I went shopping in Zabar’s. Standing in the check-out line, the woman immediately in front asked me, as she was paying for her purchases, “Where is the nearest liquor store?” I started to reel off the liquor stores that I knew nearby, Beacon on Broadway at 74th, Nancy’s on Columbus near 75th, but she wanted something closer because she was headed for 79th and Columbus and did not want to go out of her way.

With that I realized that placing me at Zabar’s on Broadway and 80th Street took me, in New York terms, far from my home court. Of course, I knew the Barnes & Noble on Broadway and 82nd, the movie theater cluster on Broadway at 84th, the Filene’s Basement at 79th and Broadway, but once north of Fairway on Broadway between 74th and 75th, my granular familiarity with the sidewalks of New York quickly disappeared.

Of course, this is all about Park Place, a street that runs three blocks east-west from Broadway (at City Hall Park) to Greenwich Street. Particularly, a site on the north side of Park Place that once housed Syms and then the Burlington Coat Factory. It has been apparently empty, at least the street-level retail space that I’ve passed on lunch-time walks, for many years. This is the contemplated location of what has been labeled the Ground Zero Mosque.

It’s a very effective debating technique to capture the vocabulary when framing your argument. Few people, I imagine, even many Muslims, feel comfortable hearing about the Ground Zero Mosque. Accordingly, I have to apply some native New York wisdom to the nomenclature here. The site is about two blocks from the closest edge of Ground Zero, the recognized name for the general area of destruction, and about four blocks from the nearest wall of either of the Twin Towers. As illustrated by my Zabar’s tale above, a couple of blocks in Manhattan can transport you to a different world. Another perspective can be gained from looking at the subway map, another way that New York City is defined. To reach Ground Zero proper, you take the E (World Trade Center) or R (Cortlandt Street) train or the 4/5 to Fulton Street (other platforms in the Fulton Street/Broadway-Nassau complex involve a longer walk). Eventually the 1 train (Cortlandt Street) will be closest when the underground transit hub is complete. That’s how a real New Yorker would navigate the trip. To reach the prospective mosque site, on the other hand, you take the 2 or 3 to Park Place. It’s not far, but it’s not the New York way to go.

So, do you get where I’m going? Ultimately, geography has nothing to do with the mosque controversy. Good people, such as Abe Foxman, a national treasure, and others, such as Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani, who share the distinction of three wives each (although no two alike), have expressed their opposition to the mosque. However, for many of the opponents of the project, anywhere is too close, too abrasive, too provocative. For them, Mars is too close, because it’s not about the building, it’s about its occupants.

In an ecumenical mood, I turn to Woody Allen. As he ages, Woody Allen looks more and more like my late father, which increases my anger at him for idiotic remarks in an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, September 15, 2010. The interview by Dave Itzkoff was about Allen’s new movie, dealing with a fortune teller and invariably raising issues of faith.

Itzkoff began the interview by asking Allen if it was appropriate to wish him a Happy Jewish New Year. The reply was, "No, no, no. That's for your people." Your people, YOUR PEOPLE! I'm a Hottentot, I'm an Eskimo, I'm a Cajun, I'm a Maori. What's with this Jew business? Where do you come off throwing me in with "your people"? What ever gave you that idea?

I guess the film maker forgot one of his greatest scenes, when Grammy Hall looks down the dinner table and sees a bearded, black-clad Hasidic Jew in place of Alvy Singer, Annie Hall's New York Jewish boyfriend. Grammy Hall recognized Woody Allen; Jews recognize Woody Allen; Gentiles recognize Woody Allen; Jihadis recognize Woody Allen; Nazis recognize Woody Allen. Poor Woody. He seems to be the only person who doesn't recognize himself.


  1. As I read I am constantly reminded of Calvin Trillin so I ask, "Where's the book?"

  2. As reluctant as I am to admit it, you are a great thinker and writer.