Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Who's Counting?

Monday, December 26, 2011

The New York City Department of Education earlier this year (2011) released a breakdown of the incoming class of Stuyvesant High School: 569 Asian-Americans (thought to be mostly Chinese with some Koreans, Japanese and South Asians), 179 whites, 13 Hispanics, and 12 blacks. Generally, this did not surprise me. Almost every morning I get off the subway around 8:30 AM at the Chambers Street station of the Seventh Avenue IRT (a/k/a ## 1, 2, 3 lines), the station closest to Stuyvesant. As I walk east towards the courthouse, dozens of Chinese kids wearing their Stuyvesant T-shirts, sweatshirts and team jackets pass by, coming from Chinatown. Many dozens of other unlabelled high school-age Chinese kids go by as well, most headed for Stuyvesant since no other high school is in the vicinity. However, the actual percentages are daunting. 74% Asian-American, 23% white, 1.7% Hispanic, 1.6% black. Wow.

I pulled out my Class of 1958 Stuyvesant yearbook to compare. Before I opened the book, I tried to recall the “minority” population in our class of about 725 (all male back then, but that’s another story). I remembered one Chinese guy, one Hispanic guy, three maybe four black guys. When I went through the book, I found the following: 700 whites, 13 blacks, 5 Hispanics, 3 Chinese and 1 Japanese. That distributes as 97% white, 2 % black, .5 % Hispanic, .5% Asian. Further, I tried to separate the whites into Jews and others, to the best of my ability, and I came up with 456 Jews and 244 other whites. I rate this evaluation plus/minus 2%. Besides names and faces, personal knowledge was a factor in some cases, such as Anthony Kelly, whom you would guess to be the product of an Italian-Irish marriage. In reality, Tony’s father was a German-Jewish refugee who came to the US as a young man and wound up in the Army during WWII. In order to avoid a dire fate if captured, he changed his name to something typically American, and begat Anthony Kelly. So, I reckon that my class was approximately 63% Jewish, 34% other whites, and 3% “minorities.” To complete this rumination, I asked 3 current Jewish Stuyvesant kids to estimate the breakdown of the current white student population in a manner that the DOE would not dare; 2 guessed around 1/3 of the white students were Jewish and the other estimated ½ or more. In conclusion, it seems that Jewish kids became Chinese kids and everyone else stayed the same. This might explain why Jews like Chinese food.

Which leads me into a description of how we spent Christmas Day, in the company of Jill and Steve, our brave travel companions and good friends. We planned for a typical New York Jewish Christmas, movies and Chinese food, but we were not alone in those plans and, 45 minutes in advance of show time, no seats were available in the big Loew’s complex on Broadway for any movie we could consider sitting through. So, we strolled down Broadway into midtown through ever-increasing crowds. When we got to Joe’s Shanghai, 24 West 56th Street, we found a big crowd that had stopped moving and were waiting to eat. The promise of a one-hour wait was not off-putting to us, however, because it was still early at 5 PM and the weather was mild for this time of year.

We gave our name and continued our stroll down Fifth Avenue through even larger crowds until we got to the tree at Rockefeller Center, which we consider a non-sectarian delight. We headed back up Sixth Avenue to avoid most of the people. The circuit, barely one-half mile, took one hour (that included lingering for a few extra minutes at the scene of a police action at the corner of 52nd Street and Fifth Avenue to apprehend and restrain a woman who attempted to drive her hulking SUV through a crowd of pedestrians). Reentering the restaurant, we found that we needed only a few more minutes to be seated.

Joe’s now claims to have three New York City locations, Chinatown, midtown and Flushing, Queens, and three restaurants in Japan. The most interesting aspect of the midtown location was the stark discrepancy between the prices published on-line on its web site when I checked on December 27th (somewhat higher than the Chinatown prices) and the actual prices charged, about 40% higher in some cases, on December 25th. For instance, scallion pancake, which they usually do so well, appears on my computer as $3.25, but cost us $4.75; diced chicken and shrimp with plum sauce is listed at $11.95, but was served at $17.50. Joe’s signature dish, soup buns were $8.95 for 6 electronically and corporally. By contrast, 8 soup buns cost $6.95 in Chinatown and a scallion pancake $2.95. I also believe that the food is better in Chinatown, but that might be a byproduct of the hordes crowding the restaurant this particular evening. Note to the archivists – This does not count on my roster of restaurants, because it is clearly outside of Chinatown, I ate dinner, not lunch, and December 25th was not a work day.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bubbly Tea, 55B Bayard Street, serves a large assortment of beverages, but I sat at one of its 3 stools to eat a “snack” that it offers, spicy popcorn chicken with a green apple slush, $4 total. A good deal. The boneless chicken chunks were cooked to order by a friendly young man from Hong Kong who told me how much I’ll enjoy my forthcoming visit. It also has chicken wings, curry fish balls, curry beef balls and a tall skewer impaling potato chips created by a machine operated on the premises. Definitely worth a look.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I have a choice to make at lunch before ending the day with a root canal procedure. Shall I go to a new (to me) Japanese restaurant, or a very familiar Chinese restaurant? I’ve chosen Door # 2, the Chinese restaurant, 69 Bayard Restaurant, 69 Bayard Street, where the money pasted on the wall is layers deep in places, because I want at least a little bit of predictable pleasure before the pain of monkeying with my teeth.

Friday, December 30, 2011

An adage that may have originated with me is: Rich people understand percentages, poor people don't. For instance, rich people collect compounded interest, poor people pay it. A radio commercial running in the New York area, at least on the all-sports radio stations that I listen to exclusively, reminded me of the importance of percentages. Western Union, long displaced as a message medium (I’ll bet that many of you young whippersnappers never saw a real telegram), now seems to rely on transferring money, a service that anyone with a bank account or a credit card doesn’t need. Only poor people with little, if any, credit need to plunk down some cash at one end in to order to get cash to family or friend, even more illiquid, at the other end. For this service, Western Union advertises that it charges $5 for a transfer of up to $50. That’s 10%, or more on a lesser amount. What a deal! Imagine the hole that you have to be in to ask someone at a distance for $50? For larger amounts of money, Western Union offers a variety of options concerning the input – in person/telephone, cash/bank account/credit card – availability of funds – minutes/next day/three days – and output – cash/direct deposit/debit card. I checked the alternatives for a $500 transfer and found that the fee ranged from $10 (cash pick up after three days from sender’s bank account) to $45 (cash pick up “in minutes” from sender’s credit or debit card). It’s good to be the King. Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fish, Elephants and Latkes

Monday, December 19, 2011

As promised last week, I went to Sushein, Kaiten Sushi Bar & Restaurant, 325 Broadway, today, the new Kosher sushi restaurant. It consists of two long, narrow rooms set at a right angle, framing the clothing store on the corner of Worth Street. I thought that Kaiten might mean Kosher in Japanese or was the name of a city or province, but I learned that it is a presentation style, that is, the plates of sushi circulate on a conveyor belt and you pick what you want. The front room has the belt running down the middle, with 20 high stools to the left and five roomy booths to the right. I recall that Nate Persily and I once dined in a sushi restaurant in San Francisco where the dishes floated by on boats. The back, or side, room does not have a conveyor belt, so ordering is done from a menu which is available to all. The place was semi-busy; all the booths in the front room were occupied mostly by observant Jews, but two young Japanese women seemed to be enjoying themselves as well. I was the only person on a stool.

All the sushi plates are round, but have different colored borders representing different prices, ranging from $2.50 to $6.75. At the end, the waiter counts the colors to get your total. Almost everything I grabbed off the conveyer belt was blue-bordered, $4 a plate, a little high if not for the Kosher certification which always exacts a toll. I had salmon and tuna, with and without avocado and a drizzle of sauce. It all tasted fresh. In addition, I had one roll, sliced in three half-inch pieces, of beef with avocado. It tasted like roast tenderloin and was quite good ($5.50). Desserts, which I skipped, included ice cream, but made with soy milk to keep the faith. My only complaint, which I wrote on the check when I paid, was that a glass of green tea was $3 and so was the second and on. Not hospitable and a deterrent to proselytizing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I spent my lunch hour at a White Elephant party hosted by two of my colleagues. Each participant brought a (presumably) desirable, but unwanted gift to be blindly chosen by another. I think this is preferable to Secret Santa doings, because I know that I am very hard to shop for. If America’s Favorite Epidemiologist is occasionally stymied by my tastes and interests, what might I expect from a relative (non-relative?) stranger.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

When I walked up Mott Street at lunch time, television cameramen were just breaking down their equipment after recording a press conference dealing with the death of Army Private Danny Chen, a kid from Chinatown, who died in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. Earlier, the U.S. Army said that eight U.S. soldiers were charged in connection with the October 3rd death of Pvt. Chen, a 19-year-old soldier. As it happened, I witnessed Pvt. Chen’s funeral procession on October 13th, which began at the bottom of Mulberry Street and drew a large crowd. At the time, it was only known that he died from non-combat injuries. Now, it seems that he may have committed suicide after experiencing substantial harassment and abuse, verbal and physical.

A month or so ago, Hoy Wong, 81 Mott Street, closed. A sign in the window claimed plumbing problems, but there was an indication that the Board of Health had a say in this. When I went by today, the restaurant was open and I went in hoping that there was a change of ownership, menu, name or operational style that would warrant counting it as a new establishment, since I had been there before on May 11, 2010. Alas, that was not the case, although the interior was notably clean and shiny for a classic Chinatown restaurant sitting below street level, and the photo mural that I observed previously was gone. I had salt and pepper fried jumbo shrimp at $13.95, about $2 per shrimp. Since the shrimp were more medium than jumbo, $1.50 would have been a fairer unit price. The food itself was pretty good with as much garlic as salt and pepper in the preparation.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yesterday, I sought someplace new at Hoy Wong, but found no registerable change. Today, without any expectations, I found that Kam Man, 200 Canal Street, the Zabar’s of Chinatown, has opened a food counter at the rear of its main floor, called Kam Man Noodles. Eight stools are lined up at a marble counter. Most of the menu is devoted to drinks, tea hot or cold, and slushes, presumptively cold. However, a dozen hot food items are listed, soups and dim sum. I had Peking duck wrap ($4.99) and pan fried Shanghai won ton ($3.50, listed on the menu at $4.95). The won ton were a relatively good buy. Additionally, there is a sushi chef standing by ready to roll to order. I’ll be back to try the sushi even if it’s not Kosher and delivered merely by hand.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Monday is my official work day off, but I am staying home today in order to prepare for a vigorous weekend of candle lighting and latke (potato pancake) consumption. I hope that all of you are rewarded by the Hanukkah Elf for a year of Good Deeds, especially the Good Deed you are transferring to Mother Ruth Gotthelf in honor of her 102nd birthday.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Birthday Boys

Monday, December 12, 2011

Happy birthday Frank Sinatra posthumously. I chose to go to sleep shortly after 11 PM last night, with the Dallas Cowboys leading the New York Giants by 5 points early in the fourth quarter of the game in Dallas. I had an almost perfect sense of what would transpire for the next 30 minutes or so. The game would (and did) go back and forth, resolving in the last moments. That would leave me around midnight, aiming to go to work the next morning, very agitated with the result, good or bad. That is, good agitation if the Giants triumphed over America’s Most Hated Team; bad agitation if that pompous, posing, pretentious football team from Big D won, as predicted by most commentators. Instead, I went to sleep lulled by the gentle rumblings emanating from the lovely form at my side.

Therefore, I was delighted to learn, from the newspaper delivered to our door this morning, that Good beat Evil. This motivated me to find a new place to eat and, as a byproduct of visiting Lendy Electric on Grand Street in search of a light bulb that Michelle Bachman would approve of, I found 212 Grand Food Corp., 212 Grand Street. This small joint is a bakery with a hot food counter and about 10 stools at two low shelves in the back. I ordered roast chicken, three 1" pieces of tasty white meat, some sort of stewed chicken, and what I got the server to later identify as kong sei chow fun, after I enjoyed this unusual noodle. Imagine a thin noodle sheet folded back on itself several times and then cut into strips. This was very good, but untraceable once I got back to my desk. Nothing edible matched kong sei on-line, but I found Kong Sei Motor in Kuala Lumpur in case I needed a tow. Oh, by the way, lunch cost $3.50.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Happy Birthday Harold Gotthelf.

Oh, no, this is not a picture of my brother at his Bar Mitzvah. Rather it is my dear friend Professor David L. McMullen, who is licensed in 16 US jurisdictions and two foreign countries to dress this way.

Walking from Lendy Electric on Grand Street, where I played a return engagement this afternoon, to the public library on East Broadway, I had no expectation of finding a new eating place, but I actually found 2 sort of. Malaysia Beef Jerky, Inc., 95A Elizabeth Street, is a tiny place, maybe 6' x 8', issuing the attractive odor of grilling meat. The sign outside advertises nine different jerkys (jerkies?), but there is no room inside to eat even one. It does not even have a ledge to put your food on while eating standing up, as does Xi An Famous Foods, 88 East Broadway. So, I walked on by until I saw XO Taste, 41 Elizabeth Street, which has such a tiny front that I thought it would be about the size of Malaysia Beef Jerky. Entering, instead I found a high-ceilinged room that went on and on, over a half block deep with two dozen or so tables seating four to eight people.

As abundant as the space proved to be, the food selection was equally large. The server gave me 5 menus, 2 for food only, 1 drinks only and 2 with specials. The takeout menu lists 333 items on 11 panels of print. Being decisive, I quickly chose chicken cutlet over rice with garlic sauce ($7.95). I was served on a sizzling hot platter with two grilled chicken paillards next to a mound of rice with a fried egg on top. On the side was a small bowl of soupy garlic sauce. I believe that the chicken insisted that the garlic sauce be served separately because of its pungency. As a result, I think I’ll get a seat on the subway going home without any problem.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

According to – "Six Waltons Have More Wealth Than the Bottom 30% of Americans." John-Boy and Grandpa Walton, such a nice family.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New York Times reported today from Gaza — "The Hamas movement celebrated the 24th anniversary of its founding on Wednesday by reasserting that it would never recognize Israel nor abandon violence." Upon hearing this news, the British Association of Militant University Faculty, renewed its call for a boycott of all Israeli academic institutions. "How cruel those Zionists are to force these helpless Palestinians to take such desperate steps," said Professor Reginald Gnose-Whartt, secretary general of the association.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I thought I was on the way to eat in my third new restaurant of the week when I headed to Sushein, Kaiten Sushi Bar & Restaurant, 325 Broadway. This would be quite a feat in the 102nd week of this (ad)venture. As I got closer, I saw that it was a Kosher place, not very hard to accomplish for a sushi restaurant as long as it avoids shellfish. For instance, Prime KO, 217 West 85th Street, is both a Kosher steakhouse and sushi bar. Well, Sushein was closed for the day, even though it was hours before sundown. So, I expect to be fed righteously on Monday.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Some Weeks Are Like That

Monday, December 5, 2011

I am bubbling with optimism today, because I go to my first Rangers hockey game of the season tonight. I am so optimistic that I scheduled a visit to my periodontist immediately before game time with the expectation that the pain resulting from him thrusting his fists in my mouth will be overridden by the later joy on ice.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Last night, disappointment, but not pessimism. Let’s leave it at that.

This morning, the two time and temperature signs at 72nd Street and Broadway were in slight disagreement at 8:25. One read 60° and the other 62°. This is the first week of December in the Northern Hemisphere. What’s up with that?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

That nice Jewish boy Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a role model for Herman Cain, has not been idle since his return to France. In October, it seems, an investigation into a prostitution ring operating in a luxury hotel uncovered his involvement. His lawyer, Henri Leclerc, handled the news with savoir faire, n’est-ce pas?: "Leclerc said Strauss-Kahn believed he was taking part in swingers parties and had no reason to suspect that the women present were prostitutes. ‘People are not always clothed at these parties. I challenge you to tell the difference between a nude prostitute and a classy lady in the nude,’ Leclerc said." You can’t pull the wool over Leclerc’s eyes, can you?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Court attorneys, law clerks and other pillars of justice are holding our annual holiday party in the courthouse at lunchtime. That means that I broke no new culinary ground this week. I had three lunches at familiar joints and one at my desk. I’ll try to do better next week.

While there were many interesting stories this week, my favorite headline appeared on the "Woman Stabbed at Anger Management Training Sues Company that Ran the Class." As of yet, her attacker, a fellow student, has not sued the company for failing to produce results for him.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Back to the Future

Monday, November 28, 2011

Michael Ratner, one of the good guys, joined me for lunch. He recently visited Turkey and I expect to see 800 or so photographs when we next meet, which is not as bad as it sounds because Michael is a very talented photographer.

America’s Loveliest Nephrologist left the Palazzo di Gotthelf, where she had been visiting us all week, at about three o’clock Sunday afternoon in order to return to San Francisco. As far as we know, 24 hours later, she has not yet gotten out of New York State. Her anticipated non-stop flight to San Francisco turned into a non-stop flight to Buffalo where the airplane landed because of mechanical problems. Buffalo’s inventory of parts, tools and/or experience proved inadequate to resolve the problem promptly and she and her 147 new friends were put up overnight. Her mother regrets that she simply did not spend the extra day here shopping.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

So Go Cafe (eschewing the accent), 67A East Broadway, is brand new. Even though it is operating without benefit of dragons, drummers or tall, potted plants, it was very busy with young Chinese customers, with one notable exception. There are about a dozen small tables surrounded by knee-high stools. You order at a counter, behind which the food is prepared. A couple of young women deliver to your spot. There was an active take-out business as well.

The menu focuses on soup and noodles, although I don’t know how to characterize “Ox Tail in Can,” “Lamb in Can” or “Duck in Can.” I had, somewhat redundantly, Fuzhou wonton soup ($2) and dumplings (6 for $2). I asked for the dumplings fried, but apparently they are out of season, so I had them steamed. They were very good, accompanied by a small schissel of sauce containing chopped peanuts. The medium-sized bowl of soup was very good as well, the clear broth hinting at fish rather than chicken. The dozen tiny wontons had near-translucent wrappers. The only problem was that, in an exercise of conscience, I could not linger to read the Sunday Times Magazine while so many customers were bustling about.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yesterday, overcoming my normal shyness and modesty, I applied to Guinness World Records for recognition of this (ad)venture, that is, eating lunch in 191 (to date) Asian restaurants in New York City’s Chinatown. It may be a dubious distinction, at best, but it is mine, unless of course someone has done better. It will take several weeks for proper recognition to be bestowed.

Two spots on Mott Street, near Canal Street, have been closed for awhile and I was hoping to find a new restaurant operating at one or the other location to add to my count. However, the doors remain shut, so I returned to Royal Seafood Restaurant, 103-105 Mott Street (May 7, 2010), and found it jammed with Chinese folk attacking dim sum. There seemed to be about 10 or more carts wheeling around with an interesting variety of dumplings, buns, noodles, chicken feet, and more. I had shrimp dumplings (4 pieces), vegetable dumplings (3 pieces), sticky chicken buns (3 pieces) and an item that crossed between a bun and a dumpling – shredded cabbage and pork stuffed into a fat hockey puck, gently baked (3 of them). Total bill was $9.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I did not recognize Mott Pho Banc Restaurant, 157 Mott Street, from the outside, but I remembered it as I looked at the menu (January 6, 2011). This is a busy Vietnamese restaurant with about 18 tables in a rectangular space. I ordered curry chicken over rice noodle ($6.50). I got a plate of vermicelli, a Friday night soup bowl with 4 pieces of chicken (2 big wings divided) in a curry sauce and an empty bowl in which to combine them. Taking steps to protect the nice tie I was wearing, I ate it all up, refilling the original empty bowl four times. I wanted to spice up the curry a bit, but by the time I decided among the four bottled sauces on the table (characteristic of Vietnamese restaurants around here), I finished the food.

I stopped smoking cigarettes in December 1979. I quit cold turkey and never smoked again, a display of self control that I have always failed to exercise around chocolate chip cookies. says that the average US price of a pack of cigarettes in 1979 was 65 cents, while the average US price of a gallon of gasoline in 1979 was 90 cents, unadjusted for inflation. Today, according to signs that I have seen in local candy stores, a pack of cigarettes costs about $12. Gasoline in Manhattan is not easy to find, but right now a gallon costs about $4. So, what happened? The price of cigarettes has gone up, for the sake of this exercise, some 18 times, while the price of gasoline has quadrupled. We know that most of the cigarette price increase results from taxation, and smoking has declined significantly in this period. Extrapolating from the chart below, the percentage of our population who smoke has declined from about 34% to about 20%.

So, what if gasoline prices had increased maybe 10 times in this period because of excise taxes instead of 4? Cleaner air? Less dependence on foreign oil? More tax revenue? Stimulus to gas-saving technology? Stimulus to alternate energy sources? More mass transit? Reduction in growth of suburbs? Decline in employment in gasoline refining and distribution businesses? Makes you stop and think?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ming’s Caffe, 28 Canal Street, is the closest restaurant of any kind to 13 Essex Street, where Mother Ruth Gotthelf was born 102 years and six days ago, and that means born right there without benefit of hospital. This is good feng shui since she has always favored Chinese food when dining out. Ming's has 10 small square aluminum tables and has an active takeout business, especially in drinks, smoothies, bubble tea and the like, which it features along with a surprisingly long food menu. I had fried pearl noodle ($7.95) which contained bean sprouts, green pepper, several meats, shrimp, and chicken with noodles I had never seen before. They range from one to two inches long, 1/4 inch or so at their thickest, sharply tapered at each end. Some quick Internet research informs me that pearl noodles are typically found in Malaysian restaurants under the name loh shee fun, but are familiarly called “rat’s tails.” They were fried only to the extent of being sauteed in a wok. I drank mango with pineapple ice ($3), a tasty brew that consisted of the three named ingredients.

Certainly, Ming’s Caffe did not sit at the corner of Canal Street and Essex Street in 1909. If it did, the Goldenbergs would never have patronized it anyway for two good reasons. First, their disposable income was disposed even before they got out the door of their tenement. Second, as traditional Jews, they would not have considered such a non-kosher cuisine. Today, five generations later, we’ve progressed to this blog.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Big Bird, Big Birthday

Monday, November 21, 2011

Heath and Deborah Campbell, the New Jersey parents of three children with Nazi-inspired names, lost custody of their fourth child 17 hours after he was born, the Express-Times of Lehigh Valley, Pa., reported this weekend. The Campbell family stepped into the spotlight in December 2008 when a ShopRite grocery store declined to decorate a birthday cake for their son Adolf Hitler Campbell’s third birthday. I understand that they settled for rugelach on that occasion.

There is a new addition to Columbus Park. Surrounded by the elderly, but animated, Chinese card and Xiangqi players is a statue of Sun Yat Sen. At bottom is an octagonal plinth, about one foot high, of black concrete. Resting on that is a trapezoid of shiny black marble, inscribed on all four sides in gold paint or gold leaf. One side gives a brief biography and outline of his philosophy in English, repeated on another side in Chinese. A third side lists donors to the structure, but the fourth side had me stumped. The trapezoid stands about seven feet tall, supporting the actual statue, fashioned in iron I’d say from its slight reddish-rusty surface. I imagine the statute is life-size, which would mean that Sun Yat Sen was between five and six feet tall, closer to five. I can’t comment on the likeness since his face was about 12 or 13 feet off the ground, 6 or 7 feet above my eyes. Of course, my recollection of his features is somewhat blurred with time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I knew that I had eaten at 19 Henry Street before, but I thought I was going to a new establishment when I entered Noodle King Restaurant. The windows said JJ Noodle and the big sign across the front said Family Noodle. I figured with those changes, I was about to add to my inventory. But, when I visited on May 10, 2010, I recorded the name as Noodle King, which is how the menu identified it today. The major difference, as I reread my earlier comments, is how many customers were sitting and eating this time, while the last time almost all the activity was confined to take-out and deliveries. In any case, I ordered beef with orange flavor ($9.95). This came with hot and sour soup, but white rice was $1 extra. Had I stuck to the lunch specials, I could have had chicken with orange flavor, soup and white rice for $5.50. However, with Thanksgiving looming, this is not a week for poultry dishes, and I enjoyed the large portion of beef cooked with tangerine peel, hot peppers, garlic, and green onions. Vividly green American broccoli rimmed the plate.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Using data on the links among 721 million Facebook users, a team of scientists discovered that the average number of acquaintances separating any two people in the United States was 4.37, and that the number separating any two people in the world was 4.74, according to the New York Times. Last night, I discovered how shockingly close I came to a genuinely nasty character, Daood Sayed Gilani, now known as David Coleman Headley. Raised in Pakistan by his Pakistani father after his American mother returned to the United States, Headley is now imprisoned as the architect of the Mumbai attack on November 26, 2008, which killed 164 people and wounded almost twice as many. As an adult, Headley traveled back and forth between the US and Pakistan, apparently operating on both sides of the law. For a time, he lived on the upper West Side and that’s where I come in. “A Perfect Terrorist,” a PBS documentary shown last night, said that he owned Flik’s Video, 175 West 72nd Street, a couple of doors in from Broadway. When he closed it down in 2006, I still had about 25 video rentals due on a prepaid plan. Now, he is in a high-security prison and I use the New York Public Library to get DVDs. I just wish the intervening time had not proved so devastating for so many innocent people.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tomorrow is a big day. Mother Ruth Gotthelf will be 102 years old. That’s a lot of years. We had our birthday party on Thanksgiving Day, with Bertha and Judi and Ivan and David and Harold and Allison and Boaz and Lily and Elaine and Myron and Amanda and Noam and Stu and Howard and Irit and Brian as guests. The dinner was delicious, another tribute to the non-academic skills of America's Favorite Epidemiologist. If somehow you were not among yesterday's crowd and you wish to help celebrate the 102nd birthday of Mother Ruth Gotthelf, we suggest a Good Deed. Take the time, maybe only a moment, to perform a Good Deed. Or, transfer a Good Deed to her name. We’ll handle the paperwork.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Weak week

Monday, November 14, 2011

Yesterday’s New York Times Magazine had an essay by Adam Davidson, a business and economics journalist from NPR. In spite of these very pinko associations, Davidson argued that we should spare the bank accounts of rich people and corporations and aim to get more tax revenue from the middle class. He boils it down to simple math; the very rich earn about $700 billion annually, while the middle class, those earning between $30,000 and $200,000 a year, makes a total of around $5 trillion. So, Davidson wishes to follow in the footsteps of Willie Sutton and go where the money is. I take issue with this approach. It is another version of trickle-down economics, again to the benefit of the rich. Just as we are asked to await the trickling down of wealth from our financial elite, we are expected to keep their tax payments at a trickle. Maybe that’s another reason to become very rich so that we may avoid the gush of paying our fair share of taxes. My thought is to first tap the overflowing keg before moving on to the keg showing signs of evaporation.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Through no fault of its own, Wo Hop downstairs, 17 Mott Street, has been replaced by ABC Chinese Restaurant, 34 Pell Street, as my go-to, classic Chinatown, Chinese food restaurant. The food is very good and reliably so at each. Service is efficient and attentive, with more tea and water never far away. Wo Hop also offers fried, crispy, wide noodles with mustard and duck sauce to nibble on ($.80) or to load into your won ton, egg drop or chicken rice soup when the weather turns cool. However, three Wo Hops would fit into ABC, which inexplicably is never more than 1/4 full. That yields space; space to sit comfortably and do the crossword puzzle or read your magazine long after the remains of lunch (not usually much remains of my lunch) have been cleared. That valuable feature has changed my habits lately, although allow me to note that Wo Hop retains the edge on authenticity by its underground location approached by a steep set of stairs. Long may they both prosper.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

3 x #1 = 1

During this 22-month (ad)venture, I have been to several locations that changed name, decor, ownership, menu, thereby earning multiple listings in this journal. Today was a first, however, when I entered Accord Asian Cuisine, 1 East Broadway, the third different operation at that address. On January 27, 2010, I ate at the Fuzhouese Restaurant, renamed the Funhouse Restaurant by me, because of the joyless character of the enterprise. It closed soon thereafter, replaced by Yi Hao Chinese Restaurant (January 4, 2011), which proved to be a respectable ordinary Chinese restaurant (maybe that’s what Yi Hao means). It closed up a few weeks ago, and Accord just opened this Monday. By the way, the signs outside still say Yi Hao and the cash register receipt said 1 East Broadway Restaurant. The name Accord appears only on the take-out menu.

The interior has been modified with a mirror running the full length of the long wall on the right- hand side, opposite a newly-installed sushi bar. Accord advertises Chinese, Japanese and Thai food, with about equal attention to the first two cuisines, while only 5 versions of pad Thai remind you of Yul Brynner. I had sesame chicken as a lunch special, usually $6.45, but 25% discount during these opening days. It came with a good hot and sour soup and vegetable fried rice. I enjoyed the deep-fried chunks of chicken in a slightly sticky, slightly sweet sauce.
A word of warning though. No dragon has appeared at Accord and none is scheduled according to the manager. That means that the resident evil spirits, which must be in abundance considering the sad history of the location, remain undisturbed. I do not counsel entirely avoiding Accord for that reason, but I suggest bringing a kazoo or small percussion instrument with you to establish a no-fly zone for evil spirits around your table. Better safe than sorry.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A demonstration by the Occupy Wall Streeters is expected at Foley Square here at 5 PM. The wide expanse of the courthouse steps has been narrowed to about 5 feet by placing aluminum fence-like barriers all around. Similarly, the open park/plaza space across the street is now ringed by the same barriers. It should prove unpleasant for all sides as the weather has turned cold and rainy. The demonstrators may have little patience under the circumstances and the cops may swing their clubs as a simple exercise to fight the chill. Using the double-barreled excuse that I was in more than 30 minutes early this morning and I have a head cold, I’ll be gone before the fun begins.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Oh what a wimp am I. My cold kept me home today and lunch was only a cup of tea and a biscotti. Actually, Trader Joe’s double chocolate biscotti have remarkable restorative powers and I am getting better already.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Short Week

Monday, November 7, 2011

Last week, I agreed to meet with a Cardozo Law School student and serve as a career guide. However, the young man’s career has apparently been derailed somewhere on New York’s extensive subway system because he never showed up and has been unheard from ever since. Today, in response to a letter from K.C., a 2003 graduate of Stuyvesant High School, now at Brooklyn Law School, we met at lunch and discussed (the dismal) employment prospects in the New York legal market. It was convenient that he is Chinese and was pleased with my choice of New Mandarin Court, 61 Mott Street, for lunch. My advice was commonsensical (or so I hope). Talk to everyone; keep close to faculty you like and admire; build on alumni, ethnic, language, avocational, political connections; remember that the difference at first is between working and not working, not pay or status.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Today, Election Day, while lacking the drama of a presidential, gubernatorial or mayoral election, is a holiday for the court system. That allowed me to visit the consulate of the People’s Happy Land of Vietnam to secure a visa for our planned visit. The staff were friendly and cooperative. I had no need to show them my Gene McCarthy button.

I walked from home, 69th Street on the West Side, to the consulate, 49th Street & First Avenue, on this very pleasant day. On the way, I passed two Brooks Brothers’ stores and was surprised to see that, by November 8th, they were decorated for Christmas. That is quite aggressive, I thought, for a store noted for its conservative style. It reminded me of London, where I’ve seen Oxford Street, one of the main shopping streets, loaded with Christmas decorations in October. Of course, the English never earned Thanksgiving so they don’t know when it’s appropriate to start the mad holiday retail assault. We, at least, have been trained to wait for the Macy’s parade to unleash our wallets.

This evening, Stanley Feingold gave a talk at CCNY on college teaching, that drew a good crowd of his old students and current undergraduates. His major theme was that college "professors" are overpaid, even unneeded to do the job at hand, that is, synthesize and analyze the course subject matter and engage the students in developing their own understanding of material. Parents of undergraduate college students should not be making large tuition payments to underwrite research efforts that do not manifest themselves in the classroom. Great research and great teaching do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. College teaching is not singular among the professions, or many jobs in general, in requiring the practitioner to keep current on developments in the field. A secondary theme was the role of personal bias in teaching and the distorting effects of large outside consulting fees for many academics. Afterwards, we old students had time to speak with current students about our paths from CCNY onward.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lunch was with the Feingold crowd, many of whom had attended the talk last night. As if we couldn’t get enough of each other, more than a dozen of us attended the CCNY alumni association dinner at the Hilton Hotel, where Joe Forstadt, one of our stalwarts was receiving an award. Joe deserves the award for so many professional and civic accomplishments, but I have also benefitted from his personal encouragement and support at critical junctures in my career. He deserves at least two medals.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Our dear friends Bonnie and Gil Glotzer’s first grandson is having his bris at 7 AM, at a synagogue in New Jersey. There’s just too much packed into that sentence that interferes with our ability to celebrate with them. So, mazel tov to parents and grandparents.

I went to work, as usual, and walked into Kuai Le Hand Pull Noodles Restaurant, 28 Forsyth Street, thinking it was my first visit. However, I had been there before (July 1, 2011), but the big illustrated menu on the wall was gone, the most memorable aspect of my former meal. I ordered ox tail hand pulled noodles ($5). It turned out to be a soup, just as the other noodle dishes were, not what I wanted on this mild day. The broth was good, but the ox probably enjoyed the tail more than I did.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Another state holiday, Veteran’s Day, which we knew as Armistice Day. In the spirit of armistice, I returned to the Vietnamese consulate, again walking across town on this bright, crisp, clear day. Here is what Central Park looked like at midday.

I picked up our visas and some Communist propaganda. For instance, the Prime Minister (admit it, none of us know his name) recently said: "Take collective efforts to prevent an economic downturn, maintain growth and ensure social welfare." That shows you the difference between those Godless socialists and us God-fearing freedom-lovers. In the good old USA, our individual efforts have caused an economic downturn, stopped growth and threatened social welfare. Is this a great country, or what?

I want to end this week on a patriotic note, since we just had Election Day and Veteran's Day close to each other. After all the attention to macarons, Mitt Romney's favorite cookie, let's go back to our roots and bite into an all-American macaroon, à la Make his father happy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Share the Wealth

Monday, October 31, 2011

I've cooled considerably on columnist Tom Friedman, but what he wrote in a column this weekend must be reproduced, considered and acted upon. “Our Congress today is a forum for legalized bribery. One consumer group using information from calculates that the financial services industry, including real estate, spent $2.3 billion on federal campaign contributions from 1990 to 2010, which was more than the health care, energy, defense, agriculture and transportation industries combined. Why are there 61 members on the House Committee on Financial Services? So many congressmen want to be in a position to sell votes to Wall Street [that’s why].” Oh, I forgot that, according to the US Supreme Court, money is speech and the $2,300,000,000 was merely an attempt to be heard in the marketplace of ideas. That is, to be heard loud and clear, over and over, 2,300,000,000 more times than you or me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Wearing gloves and a warm coat, I was happy to take a walk on this chilly, bright, clear day. I wound up at Fu Ke Yuan Restaurant, 84 Eldridge Street, a funny little place. I was the only eating customer, while four Chinese ladies sat at a table chattering without any food the whole time. A lot of the modest floor space was taken by about 18 cases of beer, Heineken and Tsingtao predominating with 6 cases each. The menu, at least the one I was handed, was very limited, listing only about 15 main courses, many featuring tilapia, and about 8 noodle dishes. I ordered House Special Mein Fun ($8.95), an alternate spelling of mei fun, vermicelli with shrimp, clam, egg, celery and other things which may have come from under water. The portion was very large; I gave it a hit of soy sauce since the noodles had been boiled, not fried, and needed a little flavor boost.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I first took public notice of macarons on March 21, 2011, the French confection, not the Passover treat. At that time, I admitted that only one month earlier I had mislabeled the great-tasting macaron I had sampled at Bouchon Bakery, in Yountville, CA, as a macaroon. Today, a little over one-half year later, such confusion would be impossible. Macarons have become commonplace in New York City. See these scribblings of May 12, 2011 and September 1, 2011. The New York Times today has a story “Airy Macarons That Rise Above the Rest,” claiming to compare 209 macarons from 26 local sources. From this mass of baked egg whites, sugar and ground almonds, it selected the 8 best:

ALMONDINE - 85 Water Street (Main Street), Dumbo, Brooklyn and 442 Ninth Street (Seventh Avenue), Park Slope, Brooklyn.
BISOUS CIAO - 101 Stanton Street (Ludlow Street), Lower East Side.
LADURÉE - 864 Madison Avenue (70th Street), Upper East Side.
LITTLE OVEN - 12-07 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, Queens.
LA MAISON DU CHOCOLAT - 1018 Madison Avenue (78th Street).
LA MAISON DU MACARON - 132 West 23rd Street, Chelsea.
TAKAHACHI BAKERY - 25 Murray Street (Church Street), TriBeCa.
VENDÔME at Charbonnel et Walker in Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Avenue.

Note that the local branch of Bouchon Bakery in the Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle is absent. This requires further research by Grandpa Alan.

Even when I am not sampling cakes and cookies, I’m out there on the edge. Sing Kee Seafood Restaurant, 42 Bowery, is brand new. I spotted it yesterday and walked in today asking if the necessary dragon had been there yet. At least one dragon and two musicians, a drummer and a cymbalist, are needed to chase off the evil spirits hovering around the premises where there has been idle space. The manager told me that no dragon had come by and he had no plans to even have a dragon visit. But, observing that there were tall plants with red ribbons up front, signs of good luck, I threw caution to the wind, sat down and dared the evil spirits to bring it on.

Sing Kee has a very large menu, with shark fin and abalone dishes along with chicken, duck, beef, pork, bean curd and noodles. A list of 39 Chef’s Recommendations includes some interesting items, e.g. chestnut and frog in casserole ($18.95), short ribs beef in a pumpkin ($35) and, for you multi-culturalists, pastrami over spinach ($13.95). Loyal as I am to Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen on Queens Boulevard, I skipped the pastrami, which is also available as a lunch special at $5.75, and ordered ½ roast chicken with black bean sauce ($11.95). It was delicious, and very large, ½ of a Grandpa Alan-sized chicken. The skin was very crispy; it must have been rubbed with oil during roasting. The black bean sauce was rich with green onions, garlic and cilantro. White rice cost a buck more, but a bowl of good hot and sour soup was delivered at no cost without asking. Service was efficient and friendly.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

At last, some good news unrelated to eating. Today’s New York Law Journal lists the names of the 7,731 candidates who passed the New York State bar examination given in July, of 11,182 who took the examination. The list ranges from Amy Elizabeth Abbandondelo to Jonathon Albert Zytnick. At the last name, my eyes quickly moved upward and I found Jonathon Seth Zelig. But, my interest is more sociological than personal. It’s no surprise that the list contains 13 Cohens, 7 Goldbergs, 14 Katzs, 9 Levines and 8 Steins. (Alas, no Gotthelfs.) However, there were 31 Chens, 62 Kims, 26 Lis, 9 Martinezs, 9 Patels, 10 Rodriguezs, 9 Shahs and 28 Zhangs. Isn’t that amazing?

I was on the top step of the courthouse at 1 PM, trying to not look too much like Sam Waterston, waiting for my lunch date with M.G., a third-year student at Cardozo. I had agreed to offer him guidance as he approaches the very difficult legal job market. So, here’s my first piece of career advice: When you make an appointment, SHOW UP! After waiting 15 minutes (I used to wait 20 minutes when waiting for a female feminine dame), I walked over to the nearest Halal cart and ordered a combo over rice, pita on the side, which I ate at my desk.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Maybe because Jon Silverberg was not seeking my advice about getting his first job as a lawyer, he was right on time when we met in front of Dim Sum Go Go, 5 East Broadway. Jon, one of the leading Chinese food eaters of his generation, had never been there and I knew it would be a treat. However, before I begin lunch, allow me to tell you my favorite anecdote concerning the two of us.

In 1984, when we had known each other about three years, we were both single and unattached, although always scouting talent. New York Magazine was then one of the most popular venues for singles’ ads, and accordingly fairly expensive. So, we wrote an ad applicable to both of us, sharing the cost, for we both were tall SWJMs who shared many interests. We avoided the gulf between us on baseball teams, while asserting our common Marxism (need I amplify?). The ad produced about 100 responses which we divvied up one evening. After the first round of dates, I recall that we exchanged batches and continued to explore the possibilities. Each of us eventually married, Jon far sooner than I, to women who ignored us in 1984.

We had the assorted dim sum platter, 11 pieces, each distinguished by shape, color and contents. Additionally, we had six other plates, doubling up on the fabulous duck dumplings. The food was so good that it just about balanced the bad taste of our current national politics.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Autumn Leaves

Monday, October 24, 2011

Simon Gurvets, Stuyvesant ‘12, sent me some shocking information. When I went to Stuyvesant High School, named for Peter Stuyvesant, the notoriously anti-Semitic Director-General of Nieuw Amsterdam, who lost his right leg to a cannonball in a battle for the island of Saint Martin in 1644, it was all boys. Therefore, all of our athletic teams were known as the Peglegs. Today, there has been a mad proliferation of team nicknames, as provided by Simon.

Baseball: Hitmen
Basketball: Runnin’ Rebels
Bowling: Pinheads
Cross-Country: Greyducks
Fencing: Untouchables
Football: Peglegs
Boys’ Golf: Eagles
Girls’ Golf: Birdies
Girls’ Gymnastics: Felines
Girls’ Handball: Furies
Boys’ Handball: Dragons
Boys’ Track: Hitmen
Girls’ Track: Hitmen
Boys’ Lacrosse: Peglegs
Girls’ Lacrosse: Huskies
Boys’ Soccer: Schoolers
Girls’ Soccer: Mimbas
Girls’ Softball: Renegades
Boys’ Swimming and Diving: Pirates
Girls’ Swimming and Diving: Penguins
Boys’ Tennis: Hitmen
Girls’ Tennis: Lobsters
Girls’ Volleyball: Vixens
Girls’ Volleyball Jr. Varsity: Warriors
Boys’ Volleyball: Men of Steel
Boys’ Wrestling: Spartans

Cui bono? Does the family tree of some member of the Stuyvesant athletic department include the manufacturer of t-shirts and sweatshirts? Almost every day, when I go to work, I get off the subway at Chambers Street and West Broadway, the nearest station to the current Stuyvesant building, further west on Chambers Street. As a result, I see dozens of kids wearing their respective Stuyvesant team shirts on their way to school. In addition to the disparate names, there seems to be anarchy in the color palette for the teams. We all know that Stuyvesant’s colors are blue (near-royal) and red, so what’s with the purple and green and maroon? I believe that, once we reform Wall Street, we need to bring discipline to Stuyvesant’s sports teams for the future of this country.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Upper West Side’s Power Couple spent the last two days at the Rhinecliff Hotel, a lovely inn, right on the Hudson River. Every one of its nine rooms has spectacular river views since only a small parking lot and railroad tracks separate it from the Hudson. Of course, this results in some interesting sound effects when the midnight special comes by at full throttle. It's like having a big set of trains in your basement. It made me want to break out the banjo and start singing "The Wabash Cannonball," "Casey Jones," and "City of New Orleans." Room 204's bathroom was the size of a Manhattan studio apartment. The kitchen and service were very good, as well. We had a Groupon deal and, under the circumstances, I recommend it very highly for a getaway with or without the colorful display of autumn leaves.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tom Adcock, distinguished novelist and journalist, came by for lunch. Befitting this special occasion, we went to Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, probably large enough to seat most of our comrades occupying Wall Street. Because of the flow of stimulating conversation, I did not keep track of what we ate, but I estimate that we had about 10 different items even as we turned back many other ladies with their dim sum carts.

Then, a very curious New York thing happened. I mentioned my still-surprising involvement with West End Synagogue. Tom, of distinguished Irish-Catholic lineage, sort of froze as a memory came back to him. His wife, the lovely actress Kim Sykes, comes from New Orleans and had family who severely suffered from Hurricane Katrina. As I later pieced together the story, Kim's good friend Jonathan Sobel told his mother Eileen Sobel about Kim's family's plight. Eileen, a WES member, repeated the story to Yael Ridberg, then WES's rabbi, who arranged for a grant to the New Orleans folks that, according to Tom, proved very helpful in getting them back on their feet. Maybe because my New Orleans relatives seemed to have literally and figuratively weathered the storm pretty well, I feel the need to thank Kim's family for their courage, and Jonathan Sobel, Eileen Sobel and Yael Ridberg for their concern.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I’m so glad that I ignored common sense on this cold drizzly day and walked about a half mile for an initial visit to Thai Angel, 141 Grand Street. The food was excellent. I started with Bangkok beef soup ($4.75 small) to fight the chill. It had slices of beef in a dark, perfumed broth. Then, I had Pad Cee Eiw with chicken ($7.95), essentially chow fun, only the wide, flat noodles did not clump together. The portion was very large and delicious. The medium-sized place was deservedly busy, but service was efficient.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Today, October 28, 2011, a clear, bright, chilly day, the new basketball court and a half, in the southern tip of Columbus Park, was finally in use. It may have opened earlier this week while I was away, but it was getting its workout today. Two park workers (“Parkies” to those raised in Brooklyn) were sweeping the court clear of autumn leaves, which will be an ongoing problem because of the trees along the Mulberry Street edge of the park. Without daily grooming at this time of year, wet leaves will pose a problem to players scampering up and down the court (and a personal injury lawyer’s delight).

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Monday, October 17, 2011

Shanghai Asian Cuisine, 14A Elizabeth Street (April 7, 2010) served me a very good dish of Shanghai lo mein with mixed meat and shrimp ($7.50). It should have been a slightly larger portion, not so medium-sized. The lo mein itself was interesting. Usually, lo mein is close to, if not exactly, spaghetti; round in cross-section, about 1/8" diameter. Today’s lo mein was square in cross-section, about 3/16" per side.

I walked through Columbus Park when I returned to the courthouse, an almost daily occurrence. The beautiful weather attracted a large crowd of elderly Chinese men and women clustered around the stone tables, playing or kibitizing the Xiangqi and card games. I’ve noted the lively activity before, but I realize that I’ve kept a secret about the card playing. The Chinese (men and women both) deal the cards counter-clockwise, while we, you, me, Las Vegas, Atlantic City deal clockwise. It’s not like they are in Australia where the toilets flush backwards. It turns out that we are backwards. Wikipedia tells us that the Chinese invented playing cards, with examples found from the 9th century. It took another five hundred years for cards to get to Europe. So, we’ve got it wrong, which may explain some of my debacles at the card table.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I took the day off to take some medical tests. The treadmill stress test is supposed to analyze your risk of a heart attack, but I think that it was designed by cardiologists to get more patients.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sam Sifton was restaurant critic for the New York Times for two years. Last week, he published his final review, a four-star rating of Per Se, Thomas Keller’s East Coast outpost of serious cuisine. I’ve never eaten in Per Se, but we ate at the French Laundry, Keller’s mother ship, in the Napa Valley about a half-dozen years ago, when my bride wanted to celebrate my birthday. As a result, I probably will not bother with Per Se and not just because the French Laundry was the most expensive meal I never paid for. It was too disciplined, too serious, too careful. I was tempted to imitate Harpo Marx and have silverware fall out of my sleeve to see the reaction of staff and patrons. I appreciated the meal at the French Laundry, I admired it, I respected it, but I did not enjoy it. I did not emerge from the restaurant exclaiming "Hoo hah," "Whoopie," or some similar expression of glee. There was nothing happy about the dining at the the French Laundry, and for hundreds of dollars per person, I expect a grin, maybe even giggles.

Today, Sifton wrote a column summarizing some of the highs and lows of his tenure dining out. What I want to mention is his new job, national news editor of the Times, after two years as restaurant critic, almost the same amount of time that I have been navigating Chinatown. Unlike Sifton, I have no expense account and often have had to deal with language and cultural barriers. Under these circumstances, I think I should be ready for a big promotion as well, maybe Secretary of State once Hillary steps down. Consider my proven adeptness at dealing with foreigners, coping with diverse manners and mores, and avoiding food poisoning. A true diplomat.

Rain and wind removed any desire to search for a restaurant at lunch time. So, when the three young, Chinese-American lawyers randomly in the elevator with me agreed that they were going to Big Wong, 67 Mott Street, my mind was made up, although my previous visits were disappointing (March 17, 2010, August 24, 2010). This time, it was a success. I ordered lobster with pan fried noodles ($15.50). This was a whole lobster in pieces, over mei fun (vermicelli) fried to a crisp, then dumped into a brown sauce loaded with ginger, garlic and scallions. The sauce softened the noodles, but they retained an underlying crunchiness. Of course, handling the lobster pieces was messy, but a good time was had by all my fingers.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bun Soho, 143 Grand Street, is a pretty slick Vietnamese restaurant. Actually, it is Bún Soho, so don’t mistake it for a dim sum place. After much deliberation, I have chosen to ignore diacritical marks in identifying restaurants with the exception of the e in café. This is particularly unfair to the Vietnamese whose typical menu rivals a Hebrew prayer book in the appearance of squiggles and wiggles and angles and dangles above and below the letters. In any case, this long narrow restaurant supposedly has an active social scene after sundown, but I wouldn’t know about that. One half the space is devoted to an attractively-lit bar and then a food preparation area. Opposite is a line of booths with good artwork on the wall above.

I had short beef ribs wrapped on lemon grass skewers, served with hoisin peanut sauce ($10) and duck confit ($12). The beef was dry and the only sauce on the plate was used to draw an outline of Cambodia. By contrast, the duck was wonderful, juicy in a red vinegar soy sauce. In fact, extra sauce was served with the duck unnecessarily, while the beef was parched. The only obstacle was how to eat the fried duck egg on top with chopsticks alone. Fear not, gentle readers, Grandpa Alan pulled it off without even a dribble on his chin, no less his tie.

My digestion was also improved by the $10 discount coupon that I bought for $1 from This is a good site as long as you take the trouble to read the fine print. Typically, the coupon value must be applied to a check twice as large. Tips are excluded, drinks may or may not be. The cost of a coupon is itself usually discounted subject to a promotion found somewhere on the web site. Just don’t expect Le Bernardin.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Muammar el-Qaddafi (as the New York Times identifies him) was born on June 7, 1942, just a few months after me. During my New York City school days, the cutoff for the next grade was May 1. So, he would have been placed one grade behind, that is, when I was in third grade with Miss Delaney in PS 159, he would have been in second grade. In fact, because I skipped the eighth grade at JHS 64, he would have been two years behind when I got into high school, unless he also skipped a grade, keeping the one-year gap. In other words, our paths did not cross and I don’t even think that we had any mutual friends.

As I passed Columbus Park on my way to Joe’s Ginger, 25 Pell Street, for its very good scallion pancake, I realized why the carefully laid out basketball court and a half remain closed to the public even as the days grow shorter and colder. I can’t believe how dumb I am, not picking up on this sooner. The National Basketball Association has locked out its players since July 1, 2011 in an effort to force a more favorable collective bargaining agreement. Negotiations are continuing, but, as of now, the earliest that play may begin will be the beginning of December. So, if there’s going to be no basketball indoors, there ain’t going to be no basketball outdoors.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Liquid Assets

Monday, October 10, 2011

We Italians took off for Columbus Day. Oh, there must have been a power outage at the center of magical coincidence, because my lottery tickets did not win anything.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Yummy Yummy Bakery, 35 East Broadway, halfway back, beyond the cakes and bakery items, has a small counter with prepared foods. For $4, you get a spoonful of four items, soup (a tasty broth) and white rice. I had chicken of some sort, sweet and sour pork, a piece of fried fish and eggs scrambled with vegetables. There were about 8 good-sized booths, and I left under my own power. I admit that I might not have patronized Yummy Yummy were I not accumulating restaurants, but I’m on a mission. 

Today’s New York Times reports: "As more Americans turn to government programs for refuge from a merciless economy, a growing number are encountering a new price of admission to the social safety net: a urine sample. Policy makers in three dozen states this year proposed drug testing for people receiving benefits like welfare, unemployment assistance, job training, food stamps and public housing." That’s fine with me as long as we apply the same tests to corporate welfare recipients. Let’s have all those bankers who took bailout funds whip it out and whiz one for Uncle Sam. Same for the auto companies’ bosses. Before the folks in Miami, Minneapolis, and Nassau County are tapped to build ballfields for millionaire private owners, I want to hear zippers unzipping at the urinals. If putting peanut butter in the pantry with foodstamps is worth a little liquid donation, I think we can expect the same when a few hundred million are at stake.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I have a lot in common with Representative Michelle Bachmann, Governor Rick Perry and Representative Ron Paul. We are all on the public payroll. Among other active Republican presidential candidates, this was once also the case with Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum. Other notable Republicans who have been mentioned in the presidential race, if only by themselves, who are or have been on the public payroll include Tim Pawlenty, Chris Christie, Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani and Mitch Daniels. Only Herman Cain and the beloved Donald Trump remain free of the taint of public service, the only ones who cannot be accused of Working for the Enemy.

Which brings me to Columbus Park, actually the southern tip of the park which was torn up in early August. Since then, in fits and starts, about 80% of the area was excavated, filled in, resurfaced and equipped. Now, the project is nearing completion. A full court basketball court, with a green surface, carefully drawn lines for the key and the three-point arc, and sturdy stanchions holding fiberglass backboards has been installed along the Mulberry Street edge of the park. Next to it, a half court has been installed, with exactly the same detail and equipment, except in half. The Attica Annex exercise area was never disturbed, possibly because of the air of menace that I always observed among its users. The whole site has been barricaded since early August and, even now, there is no indication when it might be reopen. In other words, for over two months during good weather, valuable playground space has been lost to the public, but, as harsh weather approaches, this outdoor facility is being readied for use. Is this a great country, or what?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Last night began another holiday in the string that introduces the Jewish New Year. Succoth (Succos to us old-timers) is characterized by the construction of a temporary shelter (Succah) in which meals are taken for a week. It combines a celebration of the completion of the harvest and a reminder of the flimsy accommodations the newly-liberated Hebrews had as they crossed the Sinai Desert, way back when. Each year, our Englewood relatives invite us to their Succah for dinner. Remember that this is Aunt Judi from Englewood, the Kosher Julia Child, we’re talking about. Staying away is grounds for committal.

Because of the rain, we started our meal in the Succah with blessing the wine and the bread and then, as our ancestors sought the Promised Land, we headed right to the dining room inside. Without distraction by the climate we were able to enjoy the food and wine, all strictly Kosher and strictly superb. We started with Aunt Judi’s Famous Meatballs, served over Israeli couscous. Then, there was a shredded cabbage salad (but not cole slaw), a strudel filled with spinach, potatoes and mushrooms, roasted portobello mushrooms, cauliflower and onions, breast of veal, bones served separately, honey baked chicken, and a berry fruit relish. By special request, dessert included chocolate chip mandelbrot (Jewish biscotti) and I saved room for brownies. However, I passed on the marble cake since I didn’t want to overdo it.

Even though I skipped the marble cake last night, I still wasn’t hungry today, so lunch was a small strawberry yogurt ($3.95) at Sweetberry, 34A Mott Street. It wasn’t bad, a little pricey, but since no one else came in, I sat on one of the two stools for about ten minutes doing the crossword puzzle.

I had paused for a funeral on Mulberry Street, not an unusual occurrence with three Chinese funeral parlors in a row just above Worth Street. However, the picture of the deceased atop the flower car, a typical local Chinese custom, showed a young man in an Army uniform, not a wizened elder. The cortege of about 20 cars and limousines was accompanied by six middle-aged non-Asian men on Harley Davidson motorcycles, identifying themselves as Patriot Guard Riders who attend funeral services in "an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for America’s freedom and security." After they passed by, I found out that the young man died in Afghanistan, but no one could tell me whether he was killed in combat. It was very sad, no matter.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Today, we venture forth into New England to visit Noam who walks and Boaz who runs. Maybe we can divert the two of them sufficiently to give their parents a chance to just sit.

As a byproduct of travel, I read today's Wall Street Journal, and was particularly interested in the story "Hollywood's Favorite Villain: Business," written by Rachel Dodes, daughter of my former dentist. She inventories many instances, from Metropolis (1927) through The Social Network (2010), where the the lives and crimes of captains of industry (never the captainettes it seems) are held up to scorn. WSJ did its part in righting the cultural/ideological balance with its front page headline: Social Worker Caught Stealing Pencils. Oh, I'm sorry. I had a dyslexic moment there. The actual headline reads: Trader Draws Record Sentence. Something to do with Wall Street.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Information You Could Use

Monday, October 3, 2011

Since family is very much on my mind these days, I’ll cite two things that happened outside the normal scope of this endeavor, that is, not in Chinatown, not at lunchtime and not on a weekday. Saturday was Susan Gotthelf’s birthday, celebrated widely in Buenos Aires. She’ll have to tell me if there are any other Gotthelfs in Argentina. Speaking of other Gotthelfs, America’s Favorite Epidemiologist, Alan Gotthelf and Allan Gotthelf had dinner together last night, at Dhaba Restaurant, 108 Lexington Avenue, an excellent Indian restaurant. No, I’m not stammering. My cousin Allan (middle initial S where I have none), ten months younger, also Brooklyn-born and Stuyvesant-educated, was visiting from Pittsburgh, where he now teaches. Considering the closeness in our age and upbringing, the cases of mistaken identity have been relatively few. Now, sometime I’ll tell you about the Alan Gotthelf who I think grew up in Detroit, maybe was a twin and served in the Army in the late 1960s in Colorado. Two or three times, people from across the country have sought me out as him. Then there is the Alan Gothelf (one T), who grew up in Encino, California, whom I employed as a delivery boy in 1979 just to confuse people.

ABC Chinese Restaurant, 34 Pell Street (January 22, 2010), delighted me again. I had baby shrimp with scrambled eggs ($5.95) from the lunch menu, white rice and tea included. The shrimp were not baby, and the food was delicious.

CSI: NY was filming on the courthouse steps when I returned from lunch, with ersatz cops, lawyers, reporters and suspects mingling with us real-life specimens.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I had either a head cold or a cold head this morning, so I stayed home.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Since I did not feel 100% today, I went into 69 Bayard Restaurant only to have a bowl of chicken rice soup, increasing its potency with a couple of spoonfuls of hot Chinese mustard. There was excitement, however, when I came to pay my bill. When the waiter brought over the traditional, cellophane-wrapped fortune cookie (which I would not eat, see February 6, 2010), he was in a highly-animated state. The hermetically-sealed package contained two fortune cookies, seemingly a rarer occurrence than human multiple births, and an omen of good fortune. He showed it to other waiters, and they urged me to “Buy ticket” and “Play lottery” in order to take advantage of this sooth-saying mutation. These days, I buy a lottery ticket at rare intervals, usually when the prize approximates Greece’s national debt. However, hail fellow and friend of the working class that I am, I left the restaurant promising to share 10% of my after-tax lottery winnings with the waiters, as long they may legally accept the funds in Alabama.

I bought $5 worth of lottery tickets for tonight’s drawing on the way home.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

While the winning numbers were picked last night in the New York lottery, to which I committed $5, I decided to hold off on checking my tickets until Sunday, when the period of atonement and spiritual renewal would be behind me, and I can focus on which luxury Paris hotel to languish in as a reward for walking into the right candy store.

I was delighted to have Michael Ratner join me for lunch today. Michael, having retired from operating one of New York’s leading construction firms, now is engaged in the domestic equivalent of bullfighting, trying to buy a co-op apartment in Manhattan. When he asked to go to a classic Chinatown joint, I immediately headed back to ABC, where I had been earlier in the week. We ordered dishes that were not quite on the lunch special menu, but were delivered and priced as if they were. We had beef with ginger and scallions and Singapore chow fun. Both were delicious. Michael also had hot and sour soup and a can of iced tea. With tax, the meal was just over $18, but gave several times chai in satisfaction.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Michelin announced its star ratings for New York City 2012 on Wednesday and Zagat followed on Thursday with its top 10 New York City restaurants. Since I fasted from Friday sundown until Saturday sundown in the always futile attempt to mend my ways, I thought that listing their selections would be the appropriate way to return to the dining table. Michelin is in alphabetic order, Zagat’s by rating.


Eleven Madison Park
Jean Georges
Le Bernardin
Per Se

Gordon Ramsay at the London
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon - Four Seasons Hotel New York
SHO Shaun Hergatt

Zagat’s Top Ten

Le Bernardin
Per Se
Jean Georges
Eleven Madison Park
Sushi Yasuda
La Grenouille
Peter Luger Steak House

Reflective of my taste or more likely my wallet, I’ve only been to a couple of these places over the decades, Jean Georges and Peter Luger. Even at Jean Georges, we ate in the café section, Nougatine. Additionally, I went to Bouley and La Grenouille at previous locations. Obviously, trickle down ain’t trickling fast enough for my sake.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

New Orleans/New Year

Monday, September 26, 2011

We flew back from NOLA today and return to work tomorrow. I’ll provide a quick recap of the balance of the weekend. Saturday night, we ate dinner at Tujague’s, 823 Decatur Street, founded in 1856, owned since 1982 by Steven Latter, a member of my Grandmother Gotthelf’s family. Tujague’s serves one five-course meal for about $40 a person plus drinks, tax, tips: shrimp remoulade, sweet potato crab meat bisque, beef brisket in horseradish sauce, choice of main course only (blackened shrimp over pasta, filet mignon, fish with crab meat – but, if you know to ask, chicken bonne femme, roasted chicken under about 1/4 inch of fresh chopped garlic), bread pudding for dessert. Certain relatives and friends should note that a non-overtly-treyf meal was made available, as needed.

Sunday, Cindy and David left and we visited the National World War II Museum, a fascinating enterprise. Besides a large permanent exhibit loaded with photographs, memorabilia, artifacts, constructs and recorded memories, a separate building houses a theater which shows Beyond All Boundaries, a multi-dimensional, multi-media movie on a very large screen, narrated by Tom Hanks. The presentation included special effects beyond light and sound to capture the feeling of combat, flight and bomb explosions very effectively. Even though the seats rocked and shook at appropriate places, I felt that I had not merely wandered into a thrill ride at an amusement park. An overarching flaw of the museum is its US-centricity, although modest recognition is given to the efforts and sacrifices of other nations and populations, including the Soviet Union. On the other hand, it is not the International World War II Museum. Additionally, while ultimately the museum is an expression of American patriotism, it honestly acknowledges our inability to abandon domestic racism while professedly fighting international racism. It gave credible support for the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, to avoid massive casualties in the invasion of Japan. However, the bombing of Nagasaki three days later was mentioned in one sentence without any rationale. There weren’t many people visiting on this beautiful afternoon, with the New Orleans Saints playing at the Superdome nearby at exactly the same time. I wonder if the museum will survive in the future even without the competition of a professional football game, especially as Americans increasingly turn to myths to support their beliefs.

Sunday dinner was at Chef Duke’s Café Giovanni, 117 Rue Decatur (as they prefer), a very good Italian restaurant, where I had chocolate paté, a real dessert. Afterwards, we walked about ½ mile (a rare occurrence for a NOLA tourist who either hails a taxi, rides in a horse-drawn buggy, jumps on a street car or staggers) to Mulate’s–The Original Cajun Restaurant, 201 Julia Street. We had already eaten, so I had to pass on the fried alligator platter ($18.99), fried crab claws ($12.99) and, most regrettably, the Oreo cream dirt cake ($6.99, ice cream $2.99 extra), but this large room features live Cajun music all evening, without a cover or minimum if you sit at the bar. When it cost only a little over five dollars for a draft beer and an iced tea, I gladly left ten dollars on the bar.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The weather was lovely on my first day back in Chinatown. Either because of or in spite of the nice weather, I chose not to wander in search of a new restaurant, but instead returned to Yee Li Restaurant, 60 Bayard Street (March 26, 2010). I had spicy beef chow fun ($7.75), a very good, large portion that was everything but spicy.

As you are probably aware, I am attracted to interesting words and phrases properly and improperly used. After all, as the philosophers teach us, language is what distinguishes us from Sarah Palin. I read some of this week's New Yorker as I semi-slurped my noodles at lunch, and was caught by the following comments about the influences on a young, hot artist. "He also came under the spell of the Minimalists. ‘Robert Ryman’s huge!’ Kassay said." Hmm, is this the "jumbo shrimp" of the art world?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I know that turkey and chicken are the focus of the holiday menus for the next few days, so I had my mind set on beef as I entered Hop Kee, 21 Mott Street (February 9, 2010). I was a bit surprised at the absence of orange beef on the menu and more surprised at the high prices on the menu. Two egg rolls for $7, for instance. I ordered moo shu beef ($14.50), but I can't complain about its value. The portion was very large, accompanied by four pancakes. The preparation was excellent, thick with beef, eggs, mushrooms, green onions, yellow onions, celery, bean sprouts. Grandpa Alan did not make All Gone. One pancake and enough moo to stuff it were left over. Also, included at no extra cost were white rice (why?), fried noodles with duck sauce and mustard to dip in, tea and a fortune cookie. Not a bad way to end 5771.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The fifty-seven hundreds are flying by. We attended services last night and this morning. We invited some special friends to lunch this afternoon, and America's Favorite Epidemiologist dazzled them with her culinary prowess, something usually omitted in her CV.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The abundance of food we had yesterday provided enough leftovers to have more friends over lunch after services today.

The Jewish High Holiday period focuses on reflection of past behavior and provides an opportunity for a course correction going forward. That's okay by me, on the whole. We're expected to emphasize many of the familiar qualities of honesty, humility, courage, which I've been devoted to since my Boy Scout days. I do fine usually, when in a room by myself. I'm able to look myself in the eye, assuming a mirror hung high enough on the wall, recognize my weaknesses and take corrective action. The only problem arises when other people are around. They so often interfere with my spiritual journey and my modest attempts to change the world. Sartre, the Nazi collaborator and Communist apologist, was otherwise correct. H**l is other people.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wide Range

Monday, September 19, 2011

I headed directly to 456 Shanghai Cuisine, 69 Mott Street, again today and was not thwarted by Grandpa Alan’s Rule 14 § II (D) (3) (a) (iv). Although it was busy throughout lunch, I was seated immediately. But, before I got there, I heard drumming and cymbal crashes, and, sure enough, two dragons were outside Wonton Noodle Garden, 56 Mott Street, in front of a bevy of red-ribboned, tall plants and a covey of dignitaries with roses in their lapels. I had beaten the dragons by one week when I made my initial visit last Monday, thereby exposing myself to undisbursed evil spirits who like nothing more than ruining a meal. My luck held then, as it has the few other times I’ve beaten the dragons to the punch.
456 is the reincarnation of a joint that used to be on Chatham Square. The current version can’t even qualify as a joint yet. It’s bright, clean, attractive. At least a few years of poor hygiene are needed to qualify for this label. Interestingly, just as the newly-opened Wonton Noodle Garden, which replaced New Wonton Garden, claims to have been in business since 1978, 456's menu avows "Since 1963." I’m dubious.

I had spicy shredded beef Szechuan style ($6.50), a lunch special which came with soup, rice and tea. The liquids were very disappointing. The metal tea pot held one tea bag, fighting a losing battle with a lot of hot water. I asked for and received another tea bag, although tea leaves are clearly called for. The small bowl of egg drop soup was barely warm and barely egg droppy. Fortunately, the beef was good, cooked with red peppers, yellow onions, scallions, bamboo shoots, and celery.
Thinking about the old 456 brought back memories of other past favorite Chinese restaurants, now gone to that big egg roll in the sky – Wu Han’s, upstairs on Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville, where I first tasted Chinese food with great reluctance as a wee tot; Hunam and Shun Lee Dynasty, which each got 4 stars from the New York Times at their peak; Goody’s, originally on 63rd Drive in Rego Park, possibly the first place in New York to serve soup dumplings; Canton on Division Street, where the nice lady helped you roll the diced quail into the lettuce leaves and showed proper attention to Mother Ruth Gotthelf; speaking of nice, the Nice Restaurant on East Broadway, one of the very first giant-sized, Hong Kong-style restaurants; HSF on the Bowery, which was the leading dim sum spot in the 1980s and 90s until the Hong Kong invasion; and Mandarin Something-Or-Other, upstairs on Bayard Street, where I accompanied Nate Persily and his parents when Nate was one week old and look where he is now (Google in case you don't know).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I’m qvelling today because I received an e-mail from Jerry Latter with an attachment over 60 pages long, the Latter family genealogy. I always believed that my father was related somehow to the Latters of New Orleans, which included Kate Latter, creator of Aunt Kate’s Old Fashioned Pecan Pralines, and founder of Kate Latters (sic) Candy, LLC, of Metairie, Louisiana. In fact, the only time I visited New Orleans, I bought a couple of boxes of pralines as a souvenir. We knew that my father had an Aunt Fannie in New Orleans, his mother’s sister, whom he visited a few times 70 or 80 years ago. It was also family lore that I was named for Fannie’s deceased husband, but these days none of the few remaining Gotthelfs knew anything more, not even what Fannie’s last name was.

In anticipation of our trip later this week, I decided to do a little digging, starting with an Internet search for Latter in New Olreans. The first hit was a winner. Steven Latter is the current owner of Tujague’s, the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans, famous for its Creole cooking. Steven answered when I telephoned the restaurant and we had a great conversation. I made a dinner reservation for Saturday night, and, most importantly, learned that his brother Jerry has diligently research the Latter family. An e-mail to Jerry quickly produced the Latter family history.

In brief, Yetta Lato (the family name became Latter when many members migrated to England from Poland at the end of the 19th century), was one of six brothers and sisters, four of whom wound up in New Orleans (one died as an infant apparently). I already knew that Yetta married Joseph Gotthelf in Poland and came to New York in 1906, with two young children, including my father Jack. Yetta’s sister Fannie, I learned for the first time, married Abraham Ezkovich, who died in 1939. Mother Ruth Gotthelf always said that Aunt Fannie called her and my father, near to my birth, to ask that I be named for her husband if, in the Jewish tradition, they had no other Hebrew name to pass on. Which is what happened.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Last week, I teasingly mentioned the articles by Adam Gopnik and George Packer in the now-ancient September 12, 2011 issue of the New Yorker. I did not have time to do them justice, but both are compelling. Gopnik, looking at several recent books, including That Used To Be Us, by columnist Thomas Friedman and Johns Hopkins professor Michael Mandelbaum, all addressing America and Europe’s purported decline in infrastructure, education, influence and values. On the domestic scene, Gopnik observes that, "We don’t have a better infrastructure or decent elementary education exactly because many people are willing to sacrifice faster movement between our great cities, or better-informed children, in support of their belief that the government should always be given as little as possible." In other words, borrowed somewhat from Pogo, the enemy ain’t legislative gridlock, it’s us. Gopnik goes on, "people who don’t want high-speed rail [in opposition to Obama] are not just indifferent to fast trains. They are offended by fast trains, as the New York Post is offended by bike lanes and open-air plazas; these things give too much pleasure to those they hate."

Packer is bleaker. He writes about how the opportunity for an American economic renaissance based on the sense of a shared destiny evoked by the 9/11 tragedy was wasted, with so many resources devoted to the dubious venture into Iraq. "The malignant persistence since September 11th is the biggest surprise of all. In previous decades, sneak attacks, stock market crashes, and other great crises became hinges on which American history swung in dramatically new directions. But events on the same scale, or nearly so, no longer seem to have that power; moneyed interests may have become too entrenched, élites too self-seeking, institutions too feeble, and the public too polarized and passive for the country to be shocked into fundamental change."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

America’s Favorite Epidemiologist and I leave for New Orleans today, for a five-day holiday in conjunction with the 30th wedding anniversary of Cindy and David McMullen. I attended their wedding in Maiden, North Carolina, which has a current population of 3,269 according to I don’t know what the population was in 1981, but I think everyone in town attended the celebration of the marriage of Dale Wilkinson’s older daughter. I met Cindy one year earlier, when we both started working as management consultants at Peat Marwick (as it was then known). For the wedding, I rented a car and drove three female co-workers from New York to Maiden. The wedding drew so many people from near and far as it came in the wake of the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer, on July 29, 1981, which most of us were unable to attend.

As indicated above, this trip will also serve to connect me with my NOLA family.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Last night, we went to Frenchmen Street, just outside the French Quarter, where six or seven bars have live music, more authentic than the honky tonk atmosphere of Bourbon Street. I was particularly impressed by the Bottoms Up Blues Gang (of two) at the Blue Nile. The female singer seemed to be influenced by Leon Redbone, a healthy influence in my song book.

Lunch today was at Galatoire's Restaurant, one of NOLA's best and the official site of Cindy and David's engagement offer and acceptance. The food was excellent, but not Chinese, so I will not bore you with details. I must comment on the noise factor, however. Galatoire's, though luxurious, had in common with other NOLA places of much lower character a noise factor up there with suburban Bar Mitzvah parties. You could not hear each other. The big, bustling crowd was a factor, but the decor was the determinant. Because of the constant high humidity (and it was, I can assure you), there were no rugs, drapes or any soft surfaces that might buffer sound. Instead, floors, walls, ceilings were all hard surfaces. Be warned.

After lunch, we split up, and my bride and I visited Blue Grog Frog Chocolates, 5707 Magazine Street, an area of town very different from the French Quarter. Nearby are Tulane and Loyola Universities, Audobon Park and Zoo, and upscale stores in a solidly middle-class residential area. Blue Frog is owned and operated by Ann Streifer, a cousin through the Latter connection. We had a lovely visit, learning among other things that we now have a Rabbi in the family, just relocated to Toronto. In one critical sense, though, the visit went unrequited. In spite of Blue Frog's inventory of luscious handmade and packaged chocolates, I left empty handed. With temperatures near 90, I felt that anything worth having would not endure even the street car ride back to the hotel.

We ended the long day, all four together, at a midnight striptease show at the Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, a top music venue. While the performers were not tired or dessicated, they also weren't (3 out of 4) so much to look at. Or, rather, the same 3 out of 4 were a little too much to look at. Imagine me in a G-string.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

New is Old and Old is New

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wonton Noodle Garden, 56 Mott Street replaces New Wonton Garden (January 13, 2010). There is a bit of an identity crisis associated with the new restaurant. When New Wonton Garden closed, it was seemingly reborn as H.K. Wonton Garden at 79 Mulberry Street (March 1, 2011). However, Wonton Noodle Garden’s business card says "Since 1978." In any case, the premises have been entirely renovated, inside and out. The new interior is bright, clean and understated. The place is no more than a week old and the airconditioning is in fine shape. Unfortunately, the staff’s English was limited, a properly ethnocentric point of view, I might add. So, I was unable to learn if the dragon had come by yet, and what was the rural location depicted by the 5' x 8' mural painted on one wall. Was it a Kansas wheat field or a Kunming rice paddy?

I ordered pan fried Singapore noodles ($8.50), which turned out to be Singapore mei fun, a medium-sized portion generously laden with non-noodles ingredients: shrimp, eggs, pork, bean sprouts, green peppers, red peppers, green onions, and sesame seeds. The curry flavor of the dish was very mild, however. The price should have been about a buck less. Most of the large menu featured different noodles in interesting combinations, but usually in soup, uninviting on this warm, pleasant day.

The articles by Adam Gopnik and George Packer in the now-ancient September 12, 2011 issue of the New Yorker, with the shadowy World Trade Center cover, are compelling and disheartening. They would make good reading as you board a plane to New Zealand.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Carnation Food & Bakery, 145 Canal Street, at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge, is one of those places to avoid generally unless caught in a thunderstorm. While the weather was lovely, I went in because I was too lazy to roam any further. It has sticky gooey baked goods, a variety of teas, smoothies and slushes, and a few hot food items. It’s not the worst of its kind.

I accepted the offer of one of the nice young ladies to cook me chicken with rice and received a small tidy portion of white meat chicken in a light brown sauce over white rice, bright green broccoli on the side ($4). Not bad. To drink, I had a mango slush ($3.50). While there were some customers, it was relatively empty compared to the bakeries on or near Mott Street, and I was able to read Sunday’s book review in peace.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

When we last looked in on the destruction work at the southern tip of Columbus Park, the basketball courts and the post-release exercise area had been all torn up. The surfaces have been repaved, or is it that pavement has been resurfaced? Either way, nothing else has happened, and the area remains blocked off. I hope the Parks Department isn’t waiting for really bad weather to resume work out of a fear of success.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I went for my annual physical examination and semi-annual haircut today, so I got no further south than 32nd Street. I joined the Feingold gang for lunch at the offices of a Prominent Law Firm. I brought in a lamb/chicken combo over rice, with an extra pita bread ($6), from a cart at the corner of 54th Street and Third Avenue. As usual, this makes for a satisfying meal, needed to balance some of the ideas I heard at lunch. In case you thought otherwise, not every CCNY graduate is devoted to humanistic values. What is more remarkable, however, is how many of my classmates, give or take a decade, have experienced success without turning into soulless aggregaters of material wealth.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I don’t think I can be trusted today. I went to Nice Green Bo Restaurant, 66 Bayard Street (March 29, 2010), a leading source of Shanghai cooking, and ordered Cantonese, sweet and sour prawns ($12.95). Here’s my feeble excuse. I was headed to 456 Shanghai Cuisine, 69 Mott Street, to report again on this reincarnation of an old favorite that used to be on Chatham Square decades ago. Several people have asked about it since the New York Times wrote about its return a few months ago. When I got there, it was full and people were waiting, which necessitated compliance with Grandpa Alan’s Rule 14 § II (D) (3) (a) (iv), which, after concatenation, reads: "When going out to eat alone, in Chinatown, for lunch, on a weekday, don’t wait on line." So, I walked around the corner. But, why did I order sweet and sour prawns, a very good version, by the way, although pricey, when I left one Shanghai restaurant for another? Because 456 harkens back to an earlier era, I simply associate it with Cantonese food, which is all we ate before we started talking to the Communists.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Now and Then

Monday, September 5, 2011

It would be uncharacteristic of me to claim that these modest ruminations have any influence on public affairs, but I am obliged to note the following. On Sunday evening, at a rally in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney announced that "I believe in America." This brave pronouncement came just over 24 hours after I described how he spent the years 1966-1969 in France, missing some very exciting times in Vietnam. It is conceivable that he was undermining the former French colonials in Vietnam from afar, engaging in a subtle backdraft strategy as used in the fight against forest fires. However, there has been little research on the incidence of post-traumatic stress syndrome resulting from flying croissants or Gallic sneers. So, I was heartened that Mitt stepped up to the plate now, at another crucial moment in our nation’s history, to tell us that he believes in America. I wonder if any other Republican candidate is willing to put it on the line without fear or favor as Mitt so boldly did on Sunday in New Hampshire.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nancy O’Dell, Jann Carl, Nigel Lythgoe and Alison Sweeney apparently emerged from obscurity momentarily last night. They in no way resemble the Million Dollar Quartet, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, who gathered in a Memphis studio in 1956, for an historic recording session. This Five Cent Quartet replaced Jerry Lewis (but not Jerry Lee Lewis) as host of the annual Labor Day muscular dystrophy telethon, according to today’s New York Times. I venture to guess that none of their names, in any combination, will ever appear as a Jeopardy answer.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In spite of the murky weather at lunchtime, ranging from dew to mist to drizzle, I felt the need to explore. I soon knew that I was headed for excitement when a parade came down the Bowery and turned onto East Broadway in the direction I was walking. It was led by a 16-piece marching band and contained four floats with photographs and banners that were equally foreign to me. As I marched along with the parade, I stopped and asked several folks what the occasion was, but, if they seemed to know, they only spoke Chinese and were unable to understand me, and, if they understood my English, they knew no more than I did.

I reluctantly turned north on Allen Street headed for a restaurant I had missed before. At the corner of Hester Street (an interesting film by the way), I saw a father, late-30s, and his son, maybe 10 years old, looking at a map. Well, Grandpa Alan had to offer some assistance. While we did not exchange names, I learned that Pop had grown up in upstate New York, and now lived in Richmond, Virginia. I was delighted to hear that he was aiming to take his son not to McDonald’s, not to Kentucky Fried Chicken, not to Subway (or the subway, for that matter), but to Xi An Famous Foods, that marvelous enterprise that I have enthused about several times. I sent them off with my best wishes and a promise to nominate the father as Father-of-the-Year.

Inexpensive Delicacies Company, 99 Allen Street, is very similar to Fried Dumpling on Mosco Street and even more so to Tasty Dumpling, 54 Mulberry Street. There are three tables seating no more than four people each, and four stools against a narrow counter. The food is cheap. I had 10 boiled chive and pork dumplings ($3) and three fried spring rolls ($1), but I would counsel otherwise. There was nothing wrong with the food except that the dumplings were bland, although freshly cooked, and the spring rolls were cooler than lukewarm. I could not combine the diluted vinegar and the super-hot red pepper sauce on the table to give the dumplings a lively taste. Hot mustard was needed, but unavailable. I’ll return to Inexpensive Delicacies Company for the name alone, and next time order fried dumplings, 4 for $1, and a sesame pancake, $1. I’m sure that the grease will impart the right flavors. Take heed that they had no diet soda or diet Snapple, a requirement if they wish to attract Jewish customers.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Nam, Food of Vietnam, 110 Reade Street, is a very nice restaurant, which I first visited early in this century when it was newly-opened. This trip though was my first under the auspices of this blog. The restaurant is decorated simply and tastefully, and service, in spite of some on-line reviews to the contrary, was attentive. Another reason I enjoyed lunch today was the company of Marty, chief clerk of the courthouse at 71 Thomas Street.

I had Nam salad ($12) which had grilled shrimp, barbecued pork, spring rolls, peanuts, lettuce, green onions, carrots and basil over vermicelli, with a slightly sweet dressing. An excellent dish. Marty had Mi Xao ($12), very similar to pad Thai, although one country removed. It contained stir-fried egg noodles with shrimp, chicken, pork, vegetables and peanuts in a chile lime sauce. Marty enjoyed it thoroughly and I enjoyed his enjoying it, which I hope he enjoyed.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I skipped the 9/11 commemorative ceremony in the rotunda of the courthouse today at 1 PM. The rotunda is a beautiful structure, vividly decorated. Events are held there frequently, but I rarely attend them. Regardless of the occasion, they never seem to equal the beauty and grandeur of the setting. They proceed more or less the same. Judge A introduces Judge B who thanks Judge C and Judge C's staff, then introduces Judge D who speaks a little too long before introducing a musical interlude, bagpipes if we’re lucky. By then, lunch hour for the ordinary folks is over and the rotunda empties quickly.

My own 9/11 memories are simple and I’d prefer to recall them quietly and alone. They actually begin on Friday night September 7th, when I went to see a free performance of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male drag dance company which parodies the conventions of ballet, on the plaza between the two World Trade Center buildings. I had seen the Trocks several times before and convinced my law school friend Robert Cox to come along. I remember it as a pleasant night in all regards – the weather, the performance.

Tuesday, September 11th was exactly three months after my law school graduation and about seven weeks after the bar exam. I did not have a job, but was doing unpaid research for a group of lawyers pursuing a Holocaust claim against the French national railway system, a suit eventually thrown out by the United States Supreme Court. I was listening to the all-news radio station as I prepared to go to the gym for my then-regular morning exercise when I heard news of the first plane hitting a tower. Immediately, I thought of that Army Air Force B-25 bomber crashing into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building in 1945, when it got lost in thick fog. That crash killed the pilot, two crew members and 11 people working in the offices of the National Catholic Welfare Service.

September 11th was a clear, beautiful day, so I imagined that some small private plane had been mishandled by a novice pilot. While I listened (I never owned a television set while I was unmarried), a radio reporter standing around Union Square observed the second plane hitting. I went a block-and-a-half to the Y, which had a small television in the men’s locker room, to watch what? I saw the buildings collapse, something that never was anticipated by anybody it seems. Around noon, I went back to my apartment, through streets packed with pedestrians moving uptown without benefit of any public transportation. These people were trying to get off Manhattan Island by one of the bridges connecting to Queens, the Bronx and New Jersey. Many others had crossed to Brooklyn downtown.

The Feingold group had lunch planned that day at Sid Davidoff’s office on Third Avenue, a few blocks south of my apartment. I called Sid and he told me to come over if I chose. With no family nearby, I hastened over and found Stanley Feingold, Joe Forstadt, Sid and possibly others, who I hope will remind me of their presence. We exchanged rumors and theories, but mainly stared out the window in Sid’s conference room for hours, on a high floor facing south, with an unobstructed view of a thick column of dark smoke bending towards Brooklyn.

To a great degree, my 9/11 ended on September 21st when the Mets played the Atlanta Braves, then our worst enemy, in the first professional sports event in New York City after 9/11. I watched much of the game on television at the home of the woman not yet my wife. But, as the Mets trailed 2-1 late in the game, I had to leave to drive her son and his girlfriend home. I listened to the radio as we drove and, while we were stopped at a red light, Mike Piazza came to bat in the eighth inning. Edgardo Alfonzo was on base, and Piazza hit a home run to center field, near the deepest part of the ball park. I cried; the Mets won 3-2.