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. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/22/nyregion/chinatown-journal-great-sandwiches-cheap-but-please-buy-something-else.html?scp=1&sq=sau%20voi%20sandwich&st=cse. 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.

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