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.