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.

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