Thursday, March 29, 2012

Another Look At Passover

The exact origins of Passover (this year April 6-14) are lost in time, but we are confident that thousands of years have passed since the Israelites/Jews/Hebrews left Egypt. The resulting holiday is celebrated annually to commemorate our departure and remind us what we were departing from. One of my favorite passages in the Hagaddah, the story of the exodus, states that “In every generation a person is obligated to regard himself as if he had come out of Egypt.” In other words, the gaining of freedom was not a one-time event. We should be thankful that we emerged from slavery and celebrate continuing to live in freedom. I think the message is timeless and universal.

However, I’ve recognized for many years that Passover does not promise freedom for all Jews. Because the household has to be made ready for Passover and one or two nights of a houseful of family and friends sitting down to the seder, many Jewish women are enslaved for weeks before and after Passover. I have not been surprised to hear some contemporary Jewish women express their resentment at the work needed to clear out the forbidden items (chometz), clean the premises, bring out special cookware, serving ware, dishware and glassware, shop for Passover food, set a nice table, cook a large meal or two, and then, even before the men and the children finish singing the last song of the evening, start cleaning up the mess.

It’s no wonder that, with women spending more time out of the house, earning more money, there has been a significant growth in Passover-based vacations. You can take a cruise, you can go to a hotel close to home (if home is near certain major US urban areas), or to increasingly exotic locales. In a moment, you can find packages in Arizona, California, Florida and Israel, of course. But how about Cancun, Mexico, Maggiore, Italy, Whistler, British Columbia, Paphos, Cyprus, Dubrovnik, Croatia, Cannes, France, and Estepona, Spain, all under strict rabbinical supervision. The real supervision comes from Mama, who says, “Enough of this backbreaking work. If Passover’s a holiday, I want to celebrate, too.”

Not just women felt some dread at the approach of Passover. We field Jews were and continue to be reminded of the Don’ts of Passover which are aimed at the vital area of our mouths. Don’t eat bread, don’t eat pretzels, don’t eat rice (unless you are the descendants of Iberian Jews), don’t eat corn, don’t drink beer. Don’t eat anything without a Kosher for Passover sticker. By the way, my mother recalls her mother, the formidable Esther Malka Goldenberg, a traditionally-observant Jewish woman who operated a grocery store for about 40 years on the lower East Side and then Brooklyn, pasting Kosher for Passover stickers on groceries already in stock. So, the joy and excitement that we usually felt in the big family gathering around the seder table often was soon dissipated by the negative feelings surrounding the next week of watching carefully what you ate and drank.

I had reason to reconsider this negative view of Passover when I was speaking to a non-Jewish clerk at the Shop-Rite supermarket in Englewood, NJ, where we were shopping for Passover merchandise in advance of the holiday. He was stocking the shelves and he didn’t know what the fuss was about, why this sudden explosion of merchandise tailored for one holiday. I told him that it goes back to the days of the exodus, that Jews left Egypt with little more than the clothes on their backs as they fled ahead of Pharaoh and his army. But, instead of repeating the old story about not having time to wait for bread to rise, I told him that leaving almost everything behind forced us to start anew, and that cleaning out our house and our pantries today is our tribute to our ancestors and expresses our obligation to regard ourselves as if we had come out of Egypt. We also accept this new start in memory of those who, at many times and places, had no choice in having to deal with radical disruptions in their lives. And that’s a good thing and not just a Jewish thing.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Oy Verse

Monday, March 19, 2012
Maybe the nicest day of the year, bright sky, temperature at 73° and I joined a group for lunch at Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, a wonderful place for a gathering of dim summers. We had about 10-12 different items, but multiple plates of each. I think we made all gone by the end.

Leaving the courthouse at 5 PM, I saw a big crew at work directly across the street filming something. Given my abiding interest in show business, I sauntered over and asked a grip whether they were shooting that show with the bad number in its title. No, this was a pilot for a show called Guilty, to star Cuba Gooding, Jr., as “a brilliant, morally questionable defense attorney who, after being falsely convicted of fraud and stripped of his legal license, uses his unorthodox methods to solve the cases he’s been prohibited from handling … and to exact revenge on those who set him up,” according to the publicity release. I took my time leaving the area, walking to and fro so that I could be observed from the front and back, right profile and left profile, in case there was a need to cast an older, wise-looking mentor for the agitated revenge-seeker. Somehow, I was overlooked.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012
This morning, at 9 AM, the courthouse steps were covered by cops, lawyers and civilians who were really actors or extras shooting more of Guilty. I thought my chances for discovery were even greater as I approached those majestic steps that I had climbed for years. Alas, I will not be leaving the Court Attorneys Association of the City of New York for Actor’s Equity.

Sunny, the nice Korean lady, operates a small food cart on Forsyth Street, at Division Street, in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge. I picked three skewers, lamb, chicken and beef, $1 each, which she finished cooking on a brazier built into her cart. She sprinkled on some magic spices while they cooked. Even taken together, they amounted to a modest portion, but they tasted great. While I had anticipated eating standing up, Sunny allowed me to sit on one of the two kitchen chairs next to her cart, presumably saved for company. Since I had brought my own can of diet ginger ale, this was especially convenient.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Guilty was back on the courthouse steps this morning as I approached. Yet another chance to be discovered. However, they were shooting a mock press conference and I would seem to be less convincing as an overage reporter than even as an overage lawyer.

The weather was ordinary today, 60ish, cloudy, but Columbus Park welcomed summer crowds. Except for Frisbee replacing touch football, all New York schoolyard sports were represented. The card and Xiangqi players were surrounded by kibitzers, and there was a new musical wrinkle. Alongside the tuneless banjo player and three Erhu players was a man playing a Yangqin (alternatively Yang Quin), a hammered dulcimer. Music aside, the instrument itself was lovely, a polished wooden box sitting horizontally.

Thursday, March 22, 2012
Enough with the Chinese music I thought, but this 74° lunchtime really stirred things up in the Chinatown musical community. Did you ever go to the music festival in New Orleans, where 8 or 10 performances are going on all over the grounds? Today, as I walked through Columbus Park, I saw one Erhu player alone, then three Erhuists, the dreaded banjo player and the talented Yangqin player together. Finally, at the Baxter Street edge of the park, there was the following ensemble: 1 Erhu, 1 flute, 1 accordion, 1 woman knocking blocks, and 7 (yes, count them 7) singers, 5 of whom had those headsets and strapped-on amplifiers. Is Spring in the air, or what?

Friday, March 23, 2012
The upper West Side's Power Couple are joining other members of West End Synagogue on its annual retreat deep into the heart of Connecticut, but nowhere near Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun casinos. As a result, there is nothing new to report, but I thought I would leave you with an exciting new poetic work by Jerry Posman, vice president of CCNY, at least until someone reads this.

Ode to a Chinese Checker

Awaiting Saturday’s news from Alan Gotthelf,
Our Whitman blogs a modern day song of himself.

Computer speaks and anticipation leaps,
Imagine Chinese food reviewed by Samuel Pepys.

Bright kid from Queens, no time better spent
Then at o glorious, glorious Stuyvesant.

Onto to City College mentored by the great Feingold,
Lessons learned, friends for life – a tradition to behold.

Bachelor, bon vivant until fatefully kissed
By lovely Mayris, world’s favorite epidemiologist.

Knows it all, relates without trace of guile,
But clearly being short-winded, not his style.

Law, politics, tech can expound on all that jazz
Oh what a renaissance granddad – lucky Boaz

New York super fan – Mets and Rangers hockey,
Can you imagine skating on ice with Mister Stocky?

Hanukkah host welcomes guests from all foreign shores,
Has there ever been a more gracious Jewish Santa Claus?

Fine New York dining from the guide Zagat may spring,
But read Gotthelf for the best downtown dumpling.

For this winner, no Gatorade, soy sauce we will drench,
To Alan, a sui generis -– Sino-Yiddish mensch.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Devil Made Me Do It

Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Sau Voi Corp., 101-105 Lafayette Street, looks like a candy store or a small variety store as you approach. Signs outside advertise the lottery, cigarettes and other miscellany. If you look carefully, you can spot mention of Vietnamese sandwiches, and that’s what this shop is famous for. One half of this small space is devoted to preparing Vietnamese sandwiches, appetizers and drinks. For only the second time in this (ad)venture, I had to buy food to be taken out, because there was no seating of any kind available. So, I ordered a Banh Mi Pate Cha, turkey, paté, cucumber slivers and shredded carrots on a warm baguette, with a schmear of mayo (although they may have called it something else). I then walked three blocks to a bench across from the courthouse on this lovely day and ate my tasty sandwich and dribbled liquid down the front of my suede jacket.

Film crews are almost a daily occurrence around the courthouse. Today, I saw a bunch of trucks and crew members working on the pilot episode for a prospective television series entitled “666 Park Avenue.” This immediately reminded me of Ronald Reagan. When the Reagans left the White House in 1989, some rich friends (did they have any others?) purchased a house for them in Bel Air, the ritziest part of the City of Los Angeles; Beverly Hills is its own city within the County of Los Angeles. The address was originally 666 St. Cloud Road, but, as you are well aware, the number 666 is the number of the beast identified in the Book of Revelation 13:17-18 (not normally taught in the Yeshiva of Flatbush). It has been further interpreted as the symbol for the Anti-Christ or the Devil herself. Wikipedia even supplies a name for the fear of this number –
hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia. Well, the God-fearing, or maybe the Devil-fearing, dwellers on St. Cloud Road stood up and did the Right Thing, changing the address to 668 St. Cloud Road.

Obviously, I wasn't the only one who noticed this. Calvin Trillin also commented at the time, "OK, except now where's the Devil supposed to live?"

Wednesday, March 14, 2012
It was a remarkably nice day, dry sunny, temperature in the high 60s. Columbus Park was packed with every allowable activity in full swing, the card players and the Xiangqi players taking every available table at the northern end. Casual soccer and football games occupied the field; children from one or two schools ran all over the playground; serious urban playground basketball games were underway at the newly-rebuilt southern end. And, in a rare display of solidarity, four Chinese two-string fiddle (Erhu) players, who are usually dispersed over different corners of the park, gathered together with one banjo player and a (male) singer at the northeastern corner, just inside the entrance at the corner of Mulberry Street and Bayard Street. The banjo seems like an unusual instrument for a Chinese musician, who, I would guess, never heard of Pete Seeger or Earl Scruggs. Indeed, the Chinese banjo player seemed to have only heard the beat of a different drummer, because his playing had no musical connection to any of the five others. The singer was also interesting. He was not just some random stroller who stopped by for a few choruses of the Chinese version of Melancholy Baby. He came equipped with a headset microphone attached to an amplifier and speaker hanging from his belt. While I admired the intensity of all six musicians, it reminded me that a section of a new high-speed railroad in China collapsed on Friday even after it had undergone test runs.

The Roti Canai ($3.25), a cross between naan and a crepe with a peanut dipping sauce containing one chunk of brisket, was wonderful, as it has been in the past (July 30, 2010), and no more expensive, at New Malaysia Restaurant, 46-48 Bowery Street, Chinatown Arcade # 28.

Thursday, March 15, 2012
With the temperature in the mid 40s and a thick cloud cover, Columbus Park was not densely covered with people. The absence of some pseudo-jocks was no surprise, but what got into the Chinese musicians? Today, one fiddler accompanied one woman singing where six musicians gathered yesterday. About 50 yards away, another fiddler (Erhuist?) played along with a woman toting the same sort of amplifier/speaker rig I saw yesterday, making her voice heard a long way off. There was no sign of the other two fiddlers and the banjo player. I really don't connect the weather to this scaling down of the entertainment. Pardon me, but I think they might have listened to themselves yesterday.

Tonight, when I got off the subway and headed for Fairway, I saw a handful of large trucks loaded with movie-making equipment on 73rd Street, just west of Broadway. Naturally curious, I asked a grip, the term applied to anyone in the film industry who has not been on the cover of People Magazine, what work was in process. Are you surprised that it was “666 Park Avenue”? I devoted some time to considering the implications of this appearance. Has the Devil moved to the upper West Side? Is she merely visiting? Will we have to start paying retail in order to build up our spiritual reserves so that we avoid eternal damnation?

Friday, March 16, 2012
Scrutiny of the neighborhood surrounding Palazzo di Gotthelf and the area around the courthouse turned up no sign of the Beast. Has she been driven off by the bleeding-heart liberalism of the upper West Side, or the forgive-and-forget sentimentality of Manhattan juries? Or, am I too quick to cast my fears aside? Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Jews to the Moon

Monday, March 5, 2012
New Fresco Tortillas III/Chinese Restaurant, 63 Reade Street, is an example of what I wrote about on May 5, 2011, the cross-pollination of cuisines in New York, specifically Mexican-Chinese. See also The menu gives about equal space to each. I ordered Chinese, of necessity, chicken with black bean sauce ($4.99), which came with white rice. The place is dreary, a square room with a handful of tables, most orders for take-out. The food was prepared to order, with pea pods, celery and mushrooms with thin pieces of white meat chicken in a bland sauce. This food should be served near a high school. I’ll return, but only to try the Mexican. By the way, as with the other Mexican-Chinese restaurants, all the help are Chinese.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012
This evening, at the Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning, Professor Deborah Lipstadt spoke thoughtfully on the role of the United States government and US Jewish leadership in (not) saving the Jews of Europe before and during WWII. She criticized the positions of both those who insist that millions of Jews could have been saved/rescued by relatively slight efforts by the US government and American Jewish leadership, and those, mostly Franklin D. Roosevelt hagiographers, such as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., who claim that all was done that could have been done.

I do not see this as one seamless issue. After all, it covers 12 years, several continents, dozens of countries and regimes, and millions of people. Instead, I suggest that it breaks down into three time periods, containing both discrete and common elements: I - 1933 to 1939, the rise of Naziism; II - 1939-1944, the height of Naziism; 1944 - 1945, the fall of Naziism. The opportunities and possibilities of saving European Jews were dramatically different in each period. Please forgive the staccato fashion in which I present my thoughts.

I - The rise of Naziism was greeted with disbelief in much of Europe and the US. Hitler’s behavior and ideas were seen as too bizarre to really succeed in such an advanced, civilized country as Germany. Until 1939, only Germany and Austria were under Nazi rule and their Jews were probably the most assimilated, cultured and educated jews in Europe, and, thus, while repelled and victimized by state-sponsored anti-Semitism, they usually felt strong ties to their nation, making it unlikely for them to move away. Eastern European Jews, from Russia, Poland, the Ukraine and the Baltic area, were generally less cosmopolitan, more tribal, and less educated than German/Austrian Jews, as well as those from France and the Low Countries. Many Eastern European Jews held strong traditional ties to their rabbis who did not perceive a threat or dismissed it. European Jews, long exposed to anti-Semitism, may have not recognized Naziism as a greater threat than that which preceded it.

The US long harbored xenophobic attitudes, but apparently in response to the mass immigration of Eastern European Jews in the first decades of the Twentieth Century, anti-Semitism strongly increased. Even if ethnic prejudice were absent, many Americans were not ready to accept an inflow of foreigners while unemployment plagued the decade. Henry Ford published the Dearborn Independent from 1920 to 1927, constantly promoting anti-Semitism along with anti-labor, anti-liquor and anti-immigrant views. Father Charles Coughlin, a Roman Catholic priest based in Royal Oaks, Michigan, had a weekly national radio broadcast, with an estimated audience of 30 million or more, during the 1930s. In 1934, after beginning as a supporter of Roosevelt and the New Deal, Coughlin espoused a pseudo-populist program that became overtly anti-Semitic. As late as 1938, his broadcasts were being carried by WMCA (later home to Barry Gray, Murray the K, Scott Muni and the “Good Guys”) and WINS in New York City. When Father Coughlin rationalized Kristallnacht as “Jewish persecution only followed after Christians first were persecuted [in the Soviet Union],” he fell into decline, but he continued broadcasting until September 1940 and publishing his newspaper Social Justice until May 1942.

Jewish immigrants, even fleeing Naziism, were not provided an open door to the US. Cf. the voyage of the St. Louis, a German transatlantic liner that sailed from Hamburg on May 13, 1939, with 937 passengers, almost all Jews from Germany and Austria. After the Jewish passengers were denied entry into Cuba and the US, in spite of pending US visa applications, it eventually returned them to Antwerp on June 6, 1939. At one point, the ship reputedly sailed close enough to the Florida coastline that passengers could see the lights of Miami. 288 Jewish passengers were fortunate enough to be allowed to enter Great Britain, and all but one, killed in an air raid, survived the war. Of the 640 passengers who returned to the European continent, 87 left before Germany invaded; 254 died in the Holocaust, almost exactly divided among France, Belgium and Holland; and 278 survived.

Even where anti-Semitism did not guide our immigration policies, the quota restrictions in the Immigration Bill of 1924, which limited immigration to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the US in 1890, kept out Jews and most others without ancestors in or around the British Isles. When a bill was introduced in Congress in 1939 to allow 20,000 German Jewish children into the US, outside the established quotas, it died in committee. An oft-repeated anecdote about the bill concerns Mrs. James Houghteling, wife of the commissioner of immigration and Roosevelt’s cousin. She was reputedly heard to say, at a cocktail party, “that 20,000 [Jewish] children would all too soon grow up into 20,000 ugly adults.” At the same time, Great Britain conducted the Kindertransport program, which brought 10,000 German Jewish children into the country.

In sum, psychology, ideology, prejudice, law and inertia kept Europe's Jews generally in harm's way. As the period proceeded and Nazi anti-Semitism turned increasingly violent, US law and prejudice translated into a failure of will that trapped German and Austrian Jews, even as the peril became fully exposed.

II - During the height of Naziism, Germany occupied or controlled almost all of Western Europe and a large portion of Eastern Europe, deep into Russia. The Wannsee Conference in January 1942 set the official policy of deporting Jews from Western Europe to Eastern Europe, using the fit ones for harsh labor. The minutes never mentioned killing Jews, but Reinhard Heydrich, newly-appointed as chief executor of the Final Solution to the Jewish Question, spoke of the fate of the “possible final remnant [which] will, since it will undoubtedly consist of the most resistant portion, have to be treated accordingly, because it is the product of natural selection and would, if released, act as the seed of a new Jewish revival.”

Gas chambers in concentration camps became fully operational in January 1942. Until then, machine-gunning was the typical method for wholesale killing of Jews in Eastern Europe which they densely populated, although mobile gas vans were used in Poland in late 1941 on Gypsies as well as Jews. On June 30, 1942, the New York Times, repeating information from a London newspaper, reported that over 1 million Jews had already been killed by the Nazis.

The numbers grew, of course, as the Nazis expanded their control and domination over Europe. The Red Army was always situated in Europe, but it was pushed far back to Moscow as the Germans advanced over 1,000 miles eastward from home. By late 1943, Russia stopped the advance of the Nazis and began pushing back. US and British troops did not set foot on the continent until September 3, 1943 when they invaded the toe of Italy. They arrived in Rome on June 4, 1944, only two days before the massive invasion at Normandy. These successes were too late for most European Jews. Der Stürmer, the Nazi propaganda paper, wrote on November 4, 1943: “It is actually true that the Jews have, so to speak, disappeared from Europe and that the Jewish ‘Reservoir of the East’ from which the Jewish pestilence has for centuries beset the peoples of Europe has ceased to exist.” With the exception of Hungary, this was undoubtedly true.

To make it simple, let’s suppose that Hitler announced on January 1, 1942, when most European Jews remained alive, that they were free to leave; German troops and police would not interfere or impede their free movement for ________________(pick a time period). Where would they go and how would they get there? With the exception of the generous Swedes who accepted about 7,200 Danish Jews fleeing by boat in October 1943, there was not an inch of benign territory in Europe. What would it take to move millions of Jews to coast lines where they could depart for where? How about the Moon? Great Britain, in spite of a long history of anti-Semitism, was far more welcoming to Jews than the US before the start of the war. It accepted about 90,000 Jews until 1938, when it halted such immigration, and 10,000 Jewish children in the Kindertransport program after Kristallnacht. However, it literally fought to keep Jews out of Palestine from 1939 to 1948. Additionally, at the start of the war, the British interned 74,000 German, Austrian and Italian citizens, many Jewish and mostly refugees from Naziism and Fascism, as enemy aliens. Fortunately, most were released within six months.

Where was hope? I believe that, as the Roosevelt champions insist, the only hope for European Jews during the height of Nazi power was an Allied victory over the Nazis which would bring the slaughter to an end. Civilian thoughts, deeds, words and prayers (in any language) were useless, although one voice that might have made a difference remained silent in the Vatican.

III – What I’ve always found remarkable about the closing days of the war in Europe is how, even as Soviet troops moved westward and US-led troops moved eastward into Germany, the Nazis willingly committed so much human and material resources to the destruction of the Jews. By D-Day, June 6, 1944, most of Eastern European Jewry was gone. Western European Jewish communities were fragmented, some heavily decimated, others starved, impoverished, displaced. Only Hungarian Jews, estimated at about 750,000, including those in nearby Hungarian-ruled areas, remained as a viable community as a result of the détente between Hitler and Admiral Horthy, the right-wing regent of Hungary. When the Germans invaded Hungary on March 19, 1944, the repression and hardships of the anti-Semitic Horthy regime was replaced by the sadistic cruelty of the Nazis.

Deportations from Hungary began in May 1944, originally from outlying areas. According to Martin Gilbert, the prolific British historian, more than 250,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz by June 2, 1944. About the same time, authoritative information about the character and operation of Auschwitz was received, or finally acknowledged by US policymakers. Rescue of the hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews in, on the way to or soon to be sent to Auschwitz was impossible, for the same logistical reasons that controlled the previous historic period when Naziism reached its peak. However, many of these Jews might have been saved from immediate extermination had the camp, or at least the rail lines leading to it, been destroyed, even at the cost of lives by the bombing. Auschwitz, actually a large complex of three camps, was bordered by important industrial facilities including oil refineries, positioned to take advantage of slave labor. Bombing of these facilities began as early as April 1944 by British and American air forces, but the nature of the adjacent camps was apparently unknown to military planners that early.

However, in June 1944, American Jewish leaders, certain of the character of Auschwitz, unsuccessfully appealed to the US War Department to bomb the rail lines. Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy, later a fixture in American foreign policy-making, killed the request, harkening back to a decision by the US Air Force earlier in the year not to bomb anything for the purposes of rescuing victims of enemy oppression, but to concentrate on military targets. Gilbert maintains that Winston Churchill was an active proponent of bombing Auschwitz, only to see his enthusiasm vitiated by British civil servants. When persistent Jewish voices continued to call for bombing Auschwitz over the next several months, McCloy and members of the British Foreign Office deflected the idea. There was ambiguity among world Jewish leaders, as well. The Jewish Agency, the precursor of the government of Israel, chaired by David Ben Gurion, decided on June 11, 1944 to not ask the Allies to bomb places where there were Jews, specifically referencing Auschwitz. But, one month later, it called for such bombing because it would refute Nazi propaganda that the Allies did not object to the murder of Jews, it would recognize the fact of mass extermination, it would raise the threat of reprisals against Nazi murderers, and it might arouse internal pressure against continuing the killing of Jews.

In the end, most sources agree that about 450,000 Hungarian Jews were killed, a majority probably by the end of the Summer of 1944 at Auschwitz. By then, Allied bombers were crossing the skies of Poland regularly on bombing runs to a variety of military targets, some at or near Auschwitz. However, the camp or its feeder rail lines were never deemed a worthy target, although that would have disrupted the Nazis' killing routine and kept some Jews alive until the arrival of Soviet troops who got to the suburbs of Budapest in early November 1944. Auschwitz itself was liberated by the Red Army on January 27, 1945. In anticipation of the fall of Auschwitz, the Nazis marched nearly 60,000 mostly Jewish prisoners away to the west. The cold weather, starvation, exposure and shootings are estimated to have killed more than 15,000 of these prisoners. Enough was never enough, it seems, to the Nazis where Jews were concerned.

Anti-Semitism among some key American and British policymakers, a paucity of information for others, combined with some inconsistency by leading Jewish figures probably cost tens of thousands of lives at this late stage of the war, the last chance to save Jews in any number. Logistics were not the primary obstacle to safety for these remaining Jews, as they had been for the Jews of 1939-1944. These Hungarian Jews merely needed to be left alone, kept out of the concentration camps. With the progress of the Red Army to the East, the American and British forces into France and Italy, every day staying alive accelerated the prospect of surviving the war. In Gilbert's book Auschwitz and the Allies, he quotes several former Jewish concentration camp prisoners' willingness to die by Allied bombings because of the likelihood that Nazi war efforts would also suffer as Jewish lives were lost.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012
On August 11, 2010, I went to Shanghai Asian Manor, 21 Mott Street, and found that the “scallion pancake was near-perfect.” The price has gone up 25¢ to $2.50, but it is still wonderful today.

Thursday, March 8, 2012
I have eaten in Pakistan Tea House, 176 Church Street, more often than any other restaurant in the last 10 years even though I haven’t been in there for over two years. While I was working in the small courthouse at 71Thomas Street for more than seven years, I ate at Pakistan Tea House almost weekly. Until now, though, I’ve kept it off my list. Today, I ventured to across town and ate lunch there. I had what was my usual choice, chicken biryani with a naan, Diet Pepsi chaser ($11). I think this is a one dollar increase. The portion was enormous, which only served to highlight the scarcity of chicken in the dish, five small pieces, two mostly bone. It all tasted good, however, and I received a friendly greeting from one woman behind the counter who knows that I am not a nuclear weapons inspector.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sadie Who?

Monday, February 27, 2012
At least I serve to connect some of you to the New York Times. Yesterday’s paper had a feature article on black students at Stuyvesant High School, a subject I explored not too long ago. Read it at Black enrollment peaked in 1975 when black students made up 12 percent of the school’s population, or 303 of the school’s then 2,536 students. In 1980, there were 212 black students; in 1990, 147; in 2000, 109; in 2005, 66; and today 40 out of 3,295 students. In 1970, Asian (Chinese) students were 6% of the student body surging to 72.5% today. Which of these situations is more remarkable?
Tanxi Wang Fu Zhou Cuisine Inc., 13B Eldridge Street, is a busy joint. Long and narrow, about 40 chairs face two ledges running opposite each other down the length of the restaurant, and almost every one was taken with rapid turnover. The one English version of the menu is posted on the wall and the choices are limited. I had fish ball soup ($2 small) and noodles with peanut sauce ($2). There were seven 1" fish balls in a mild broth. The ground fish, with a texture akin to a quenelle, was wrapped around a meat or darker fish center. The flat egg noodles might have been cold sesame noodles if they were cold, not hot, but they were hot so not. It amounted to a lot of good food for a little money.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012
A story I missed when it first appeared is at Of course, my Dutch is rusty and it took awhile for me to understand KLM’s new policy which will allow airplane seat selection to incorporate profile information about possible co-passengers from social networks. I’m already crafting some profiles for myself to use on different flight segments to maximize my chances to be left in splendid isolation:
New York to Chicago - Flatulent senior citizen.
New York to Los Angeles - Newly-crowned teenage baton-twirling champion.
New York to London - Life insurance salesman under quota.
New York to Tokyo - Newt Gingrich.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
How old do you have to be to know who is Sadie Hawkins?

Thursday, March 1, 2012
Canal Best Restaurant, 266 Canal Street, is a joint I would have sworn I had gone to before. Located just west of Broadway, it’s in a heavily-trafficked area, but I had missed it in the last two years. It’s medium-small sized, 8 rectangular tables for 4 and 8 round tables for 8-10 people. Just about every table was partially occupied, mostly by Chinese, although many tourists were in constant movement outside along Canal Street. It has a big menu, with few surprises. Eighty dishes are offered for lunch, ranging from $5 to $6.95, with soup. Another 60 items included noodles and rice dishes. After all that, I ordered shredded duck chow fun ($6.95), which was not actually on the menu, but presented no problem in light of the listing of shredded duck with other noodles, and chow fun with other meats. The portion was not as heaping as I might have wished, but it was good, not great. The noodles did not manage to double up on themselves as happens in the greatest of chow funs. I wonder how they do that?

Friday, March 2, 2012
Solidifying our role as the upper West Side’s Power Couple, America’s Favorite Epidemiologist and I purchased smartyphones this past weekend. While their possible uses seem endless with all the apps available from technophiles dwelling in ill-ventilated spaces, we are making some progress in joining the Wired Generation. I note this for your benefit since my smartyphone combines telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and web sites into one contact list, all selected by a gentle touch of the screen. However, age, drink, weariness, distraction, sleep deprivation, sensory overload or boredom might occasionally distort the accuracy of my selection causing me to ring you up in the middle of the night when I was merely trying to look up the population of Bolivia. I ask your temporary tolerance of my learning curve.