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.