Monday, September 20, 2010
After a large plate of chicken fried rice at 69 Bayard Restaurant, still bedecked with dollar bills, and always a reliable source of Chinatown Chinese food, I bought a guava from one of the fruit stands at the corner of Mulberry & Canal Streets. The price was $1.60 a pound, and mine was near a pound at $1.50. The guava was the size of a slightly crushed baseball, light-green colored and quite dense. I had no idea how to eat it until one of my lawyer colleagues suggested the Internet where I learned the following from www.ehow.com – "Eat the guava like you would an apple--simply take bites of the fruit, rind and all. The rind may be slightly bitter in some cases; however, it is a great source of nutrients and is better not to overlook." Now, the Chinese lady who sold me the guava handed me one when I said "Eat now." As I was about to take my first bite, I thought that she might have heard me mispronouncing the name of an old friend. I chose to quarter the guava, as I might an apple, and then gave away three quarters. When I finally ate my piece, it wasn’t bad, somewhat apple tasting, in fact. On the other hand, I don’t like apples very much.
After work, I tried to shop at the new Trader Joe’s, corner of 72nd Street and Broadway. It was really foolish to think that the crowds would be manageable at 6 PM opening day. The new store operates on two floors below the street-level entrance, which at least kept the crowds from winding out to the sidewalk. However, the check-out lines, regular and express (183 items or less) seemed interminable. The employees holding "End of the line" signs were just about the first thing I saw when I got to the first selling floor. I held on to the four-cheese flat bread pizza ($4.95) that I picked from a refrigerated case only briefly and decided not to continue in search of the chocolate-covered pretzels, chocolate chip cookies and chocolate-covered blueberries that spell Trader Joe’s to me.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
An errand took me close to Church Street at lunchtime, so I ate at Pakistan Tea House, 176 Church Street, which I used to patronize at least every other week when I worked on the West Side. Even though I’ve been here on the East Side since the first of the year, the woman behind the counter recognized me and charged me only $8.50 for chicken biryani, a naan and a can of Diet Coke, regularly 10 bucks, I think. I enjoyed the food, as I have in the past, and, as I write this hours later, I still don’t have any heartburn.
I returned to Trader Joe’s close to 6 PM and found the selling floors quite uncrowded, and, with a package of dark chocolate lace cookies in hand, headed to the check-out line, which seemed to contain more people than the number still shopping. (Note to America’s Favorite Epidemiologist – This was a test run, conducted for reporting purposes only. The use of dark chocolate lace cookies [made with real chocolate, not brown Crisco] was symbolic, near-metaphorical, to allow me to experience the operational characteristics of this new Trader Joe’s. I had to buy something after all.)
The store has 29 cash registers arranged in little clusters, because there is no room to line up 29 cash registers in a row. As a result, my wait was between 5 and 10 minutes.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
I’ve taken the day off from work, primarily to enjoy the company of Stanley Feingold at lunch. Fortunately, Stanley was visiting a friend after lunch, who by chance lives in my apartment building, so we got to spend extra time strolling from 46th Street and Sixth Avenue to 69th Street and Amsterdam (equivalent to Tenth) Avenue.
Because I was instructed to buy biscotti for a visit to a friend’s Succah (my spelling), I returned to Trader Joe’s on the way home. The big surprise was that, at 6 PM, both Fairway and Trader Joe’s were effectively empty. Competition did not stimulate business for either or both, but rather kept everyone home, possibly ordering Chinese food delivered from Ollie’s.
With biscotti and a few other treats in hand, I went directly to the head of the line. In fact, I was the line. One could cite the advent of Sukkot keeping the pious out of stores, however, sundown was at 6:54 PM leaving just enough time for the most observant Yid to buy at least one package of dark chocolate lace cookies and still get to their little grass shacks.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
There was a demonstration in front of the Moynihan Federal Courthouse to free or repatriate to Pakistan Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. She was, at the same time, being sentenced to 86 years for attempted murder, armed assault, using and carrying a firearm, and assault on US officers and employees. Her story is twisted in fact and implication. Wikipedia has a seemingly balanced version of events at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aafia_siddiqi. She was born in Pakistan to a very successful professional couple, then moved to the US when she was 18. She has two children by her first marriage to a physician. She divorced her husband and later married a man closely related to a couple of al-Qaeda heavies. What intrigues me most is her education; she received a BS in biology from MIT, transferring from the University of Houston, and then a PhD in cognitive neuroscience from Brandeis University in 2001. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin has a bachelor’s degree in communications-journalism from the University of Idaho. Can the West prevail?
Sanur Restaurant, 18 Doyers Street, really classifies as a joint. It features Indonesian and Malaysian food. It is surrounded by hair salons, as previously noted (May 13, 2010), and operates on two physical levels. At street level are a couple of tables and a busy take-out counter. I was the eighth person downstairs, spread over eight tables, varying in capacity from 2 to 8 people. Yet, the space felt crowded, because the tables were very close to each other.
I ordered chicken curry ($8.95), listed under Indonesian specialties. White rice was one dollar extra. The chunks of potato possibly exceeded in weight and size the chunks of chicken on the bone. Yet, I loved the dish. The curry flavor was not Indi/Paki-style, but what I’ve tasted most recently at Malay restaurants, such as New Malaysia Restaurant, and described as having a peanutty tinge. The potatoes had cooked in the curry sauce a long time and they weren’t just potatoes anymore. What a delight. I shall return.
I did not return to Trader Joe’s after work. It’s just not any fun when it’s empty.
Friday, September 24, 2010
I wasn’t surprised by the quality and quantity of the duck Chow Fun at Hsin Wong Restaurant, 72 Bayard Street. I’ve enjoyed it before. However, my walk back through Columbus Park made me witness to an historic event – the cracking, breaking or, at least, fissuring of the bamboo ceiling. On a very few occasions, I’ve seen Chinese men and women playing the rummy card game together, always dealing the cards counter-clockwise as if they were in Australia where the water runs down the drain backwards. But, that inscrutable chess/checker game seemed only to attract Chinese men. I’ve never seen any Chinese women playing it, no less Chinese men and women playing together. Further, I’ve never seen a non-Chinese person playing it at all. Well, today the world of table games changed, never to revert to the dark discriminatory days of yore. I saw, at a centrally-located table, not hidden in some corner near the dumpster, a Chinese man playing the strange chess/checkers game intently against a non-Chinese woman. There was no way for me to tell who was winning and I did not wait until it ended (actually, I don’t recall ever seeing one of those games end). This spectacle attracted some observers, as many of these matches do, but there was little of the hooting and hollering that accompanies some contests. Actually, watching the crowd is much more fun than watching the players, who are staring at the board with great concentration. Kibitzers shout instructions to the players, complain about moves made, reach in to point to winning moves and even try to make the moves themselves. A hot match might have a crowd of 20 men (always men) surrounding the table and, if the crowd is that large, it is very loud and animated.
A final note on Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. The Federal district court judge who presided over her trial and sentenced her, is Richard Berman, whom I knew when he was an undergraduate at Cornell University. While we still have friends in common, I don't believe I've seen him in 45 years. So, I don't think he will let me off easy if I ever come before him.