Friday, January 18, 2013

Names In the News

Monday, January 14, 2013
I was unhappy reading an article in the real estate section of the Sunday New York Times, even though it dealt with one of my favorite musicians, Christine Lavin. During a period from the late 80s through the mid 90s (not my age, the years), I attended her performances religiously. At least a couple of you can attest that I once went on stage with her at the Bottom Line, a folk/rock/blues/jazz club that succumbed to NYU’s rapacious real estate policies after operating for 20 years in Greenwich Village. While Christine Lavin wrote and performed ballads of love and loss, her wonderful sense of humor distinguished much of her work. Among my favorites are Fly On a Plane, Cold Pizza For Breakfast, Sensitive New Age Guy and Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind.

A quick look at her web site,, shows that she is still actively recording, performing live and organizing events for other folk artists. So why ain’t I thrilled and delighted by the article in the Times? Christine Lavin is 61-years old, has been performing for about 40 years, recorded 20 solo albums, written songs, books and articles of all sorts, produced albums for many others, and received awards from critics and peers. However, her monthly budget for an apartment is $1,500, now that she has returned to New York after nursing her ailing mother. $1,500. $1,500! $1,500!! Christian Louboutin sells shoes for more; "meal for two at the restaurant [Masa, 10 Columbus Circle] can easily run to $1,500" (New York Times, 6/14/11); one ticket for next Monday’s game Knicks/Nets at Madison Square Garden in Section 108, one section removed from floor level, costs $1,772. This woman should be living in a palace with all the enjoyment she has brought to people for decades. If I could only get her a reality series, she could probably make several Kardashians – a monetary unit unrelated to anything of value in the real world.

8:00 P.M. In tonight’s episode of "The Real Folk Singers of Manhattan," Leonard Cohen makes a guest appearance and tells the girls how to pick a hat to wear on stage.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013
The path of true love never runs smooth. From today’s news wire: "The couple who met, fell in love and married over a shared name, have now filed for divorce. Kelly Hildebrandt and Kelly Hildebrandt have gone their separate ways. The pair with matching names made news when they tied the knot in 2009. But the couple came to realize that sharing a name wasn’t enough to keep them together. ‘She’s a Florida girl, and I’m a Texas guy,’ Kelly Carl told Miami news station NBC6. ‘We really did come from pretty different worlds.’"

I fully appreciate the difficulties that Kelly faced, or that Kelly faced, for that matter. The state of wedded bliss that America’s Favorite Epidemiologist and I have been sharing for almost 10 years has also met some formidable obstacles. First of all, our names don’t even share a consonant, denying us the natural bond that the HiLDeBRaNDTs have. Moreover, my young bride is a Bronx girl and I’m a Brooklyn guy. That’s an almost incalculable cultural and psychological gulf, nay chasm, that cannot be compared to a mere geographical divide in the otherwise homogenized Sun Belt. Yet, it’s all been worth it and I would counsel Kelly and Kelly to hang in there, if only to enjoy mystifying strangers upon first being introduced.

Nish Nush, 88 Reade Street, deserves a discussion, but as only a Middle-Eastern joint, not an Eastern joint, it does not increase our count. Nish Nush, as the menu says, is Hebrew for snack, and it also proclaims that it uses 100% Kosher ingredients. Even though its menu is all vegetarian, it does not carry any certification of its Kosher bona fides, which may be a good thing under the maxim Less is More.

It sits on a corner and both exterior walls are made entirely of 15" square glass panes. The interior affects an attractive factory look, exposed ducts, pipes, galvanized metal panels. About half the floor space is taken by the counter and open kitchen where 7 or so people, all male save 1, wearing fedoras, prepare your order. There are 5 tall tables, capacity 2 to 10, with stools. The table tops were thick glass, covering a bed of chick peas, uncooked. The menu accordingly focuses on hummus and falafel. I had the Deluxe sandwich ($8), which contained three different falafels – classic green, spicy roasted pepper and spinach & mushroom – stuffed in a pita bursting with hummus, salad, white & red cabbage, pickles, eggplant and tahini. It was delicious and, fortunately, very big.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013
I wrote it off when I first wrote up Shanghai Cuisine, 89 Bayard Street (January 20, 2010), an early stop in a long line of Chinatown restaurants to come. I never returned, although I passed it 2 or 3 times every week. With cold rain on and off, I decided to give into convenience today, and go the short distance to Shanghai Cuisine. The large menu offers chicken feet and pig stomachs, as well as a group of lunch specials ranging from $5.50 to $7.50, including soup or soda, white rice and tea. I ordered orange beef ($7.50), hot and sour soup and substituted brown rice for another 75¢. The food was good, but the portion of beef was small. I found myself chewing on some of the tangerine peels left on the bottom of the plate to feel as if I got my money’s worth. I shall return, if only to try their soup buns, which they aggressively promote.

Thursday, January 17, 2013
The saddest thing about the death of the lovely Lennay Kekua, Notre Dame star football player Manti Te’o’s girlfriend, in September last year was the effect that it had on the presidential election. While Lennay’s religious affiliation is unknown at present, Manti is a deeply religious Mormon. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect that he voted for Mitt Romney in November, and would have convinced Lennay to do the same had she survived. This, then, would partially explain the missing surge of Romney votes that Karl Rove waited fruitlessly for on Election Night. I’d like someone to gather data on the incidence of dead girlfriends among Republican football players. While it would not likely justify a recount, it might help Mitt sleep at night.

Friday, January 18, 2013
In light of the strange story about Manti Te’o, Notre Dame’s star football player and his apparently illusory girlfriend, I want to reassure you that America’s Favorite Epidemiologist is a real person. I have met her and members of her family on numerous occasions. I have attended at least one of her weddings. She has responded to my telephone calls and e-mails quickly and candidly. There is no doubt in my mind about her existence and continuing good health.

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