Friday, February 22, 2013

Spending Time With People

Monday, February 18, 2013
We spent the long weekend in Massachusetts in the company of the second and third generation. The more than two feet of snow remaining on the ground from the previous weekend’s storm did not inhibit us. Certainly, the third generation were delighted to plunge over, under, around and through the deep snow piles in their cul-de-sac. One night’s restaurant dinner is worth a mention. Chinese Mirch, 140 Worcester Rd, Framingham, MA, is a franchised extension to the restaurant at 120 Lexington Avenue which I’ve passed dozens of times on the way to the Indian restaurants surrounding it in Curry Hill. Of course, it took a trip to the greater Boston area to get me in the door.

Chinese Mirch offers Chinese food with Indian spices, a very interesting combination. I ate a lot, but it was Saturday night. The good appetizers were duck bao ($5.99), very close to Peking duck in a 1/2" thick pancake, and fried Momos, Tibetan dumplings with chicken filling ($5.99). More memorable were the main courses, five spice roast duck ($19.99) and crispy Szechuan lamb ($16.99). Both were boldly spiced and the better for it. While the Hakka noodles with vegetables ($9.99), essentially lo mein, were advertised as not spicy, they were tasty and a good balance to the vivid flavors of the other dishes. The restaurant was fairly large, decorated with basic geometric shapes in black and red.

Service was friendly, but everything had its price. I think only water came with the food; even tea and rice were extra. My overall observation was that Chinese Mirch was expensive, especially for a suburban, highway, strip-mall location. However, a look on-line at the menu for the Lexington Avenue operation showed the prices to be the same. At least, parking is easier on Worcester Road than Lexington Avenue. If you have enough people to share the many interesting dishes, and divide the check into enough parts, Chinese Mirch deserves a visit.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013
After a five-day absence from work, I’m back upholding the lamp of justice. Helping me uphold the chopsticks of justice today was Michael Ratner, who was visiting the construction site of the multi-billion dollar Fulton Street transit interchange. For those of you who might have forgotten, Fulton Street is at the center of a complex of subway stations used by 11 different train lines. By the way, an alert New Yorker should be able to identify 9 of the train lines; 10 would mark you as a transit expert and all 11 means that you need to spend more time in daylight. Since the underground interchanges among the lines extended over time, growing with the construction of each new line, connecting from one train to another was often a time-consuming, confusing ritual. Additionally, Ground Zero abuts the Fulton Street transit interchange, and the terrible tragedy destroyed one subway stop entirely and has kept another closed for years.

Michael, who now consults and teaches on construction topics, was viewing the work in progress at the invitation of a participating architect. Had I had enough notice, I would have joined the tour. In any case, Michael met me and, promising him a great scallion pancake, I led us to Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street, for their fabulous scallion pancake at a mere $2.25. We didn’t stop there, of course. Shanghai Gourmet (November 9, 2012, October 17, 2012) offers very good lunch specials, rice, hot and sour soup and main dish in the range of $4.75-$5.95. We ordered, to share, chicken with cashew nuts ($4.75) and Hunan beef ($5.50). To round it out, we also had a large plate of Shanghai chow fun, rich with beef, chicken and shrimp, but lacking that curry tang of Singapore chow fun. With the scallion pancake an A+, the hot and sour soup an A, and the other dishes hovering around a B+, we had a large, first-class lunch for $25, including tax and tip. Only in America.

In some ways, the life of Jerry Buss is another American success story, with a melancholic twist in my rarely-humble opinion. Buss, 80-years old, died Monday. His death received wide coverage because he invested millions of dollars into the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team which resulted in many championships and great popularity. He grew up in a small town in Wyoming (as if there are any others), raised by a divorced mother working as a waitress. A scholarship got him into college and he went on to get a doctorate in chemistry. He began investing in real estate in 1959 and eventually owned billions of dollars of property.

He liked to be called Dr. Buss throughout the rest of his life. Therein is the sad part. He was obviously very intelligent, maybe brilliant. Undoubtedly, he made decisions that not only enriched himself materially, but brought enjoyment to many sports fans in Los Angeles and throughout much of the world within reach of a television set. But, he died of cancer as have so many of my and your friends. Could his fine mind, high energy and doggedness have produced a cure for cancer, or acne, or multiple sclerosis, or dandruff? I didn’t find any mention of his philanthropy in the obituaries I read, but I’m sure that he had his good causes. And, maybe it’s better that he put money rather than sweat equity into his charitable pursuits. However, I’d rather that we celebrated a life not so consumed by pyramiding wealth and acquiring showpieces. But, I’m funny that way.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Last night, I attended my first hockey game of this truncated season, also my first visit to the renovated Madison Square Garden. Generous Jeff G’s seats have been recalibrated, since section 309, his perch for many years past, has been eliminated. The new location is fabulous, even at the stiff new price. We sat just about dead center, one row behind the TV cameras. No one could walk in front of us on the way to take beer in or pass it out. The views were unmatched. Unfortunately, the Rangers forgot to play hockey last night, losing 3-1 to the Montreal Canadiens, in a game the New York Times today described as "tame and listless." Color-coding of the Garden's tiers has been eliminated and all seats are now blue. So were the fans by the end of the evening.

America’s Favorite Epidemiologist has been called to jury duty at 71 Thomas Street, my favorite courthouse. That allowed us to have lunch together at Tre Sorelle, 61 Reade Street, a friendly Italian restaurant that features pizzas from a wood-burning oven. The open room is cube-shaped, with one wall entirely of exposed brick and a tin-covered ceiling. The pizza oven is in the center of the restaurant, facing front, so you get a comforting burst of warm air when entering from the cold, windy street. We shared a large Quattro Formaggi Rossa pizza ($16.95), four cheeses and tomato sauce; other pies ranged from $14.95 to $16.95. Personal-sized pizzas were $5 less. After this pleasant meal, we returned to our respective courthouses. Thanks to the efficiencies introduced by Judith Kaye, when she was Chief Justice of New York State, my young bride’s jury service ended that afternoon, having spent only one day reading the newspaper exhaustively. She is now deferred for six years, although I hope I don’t have to wait that long to have lunch with her again.

Speaking of Judith Kaye, she thinks she knows me. During the High Holy Days in 2011, when America’s Favorite Epidemiologist and I were walking home from synagogue services, she came walking down West 69th Street from the other direction. Note that many Jews rediscover walking during the Jewish holidays. I recognized her, having seen her at some functions, and often in the New York Law Journal, and smiled. She stopped and I made the introductions. Actually, these two lovely women have similar senses of style and manner. I sealed my bond to the retired Chief Justice by mentioning the name of a mutual friend who lives nearby. Now, she seemed certain that stopping to chat with us was the proper thing to do. We parted, promising to keep in touch.

Thursday, February 21, 2013
Smithtown Steve came downtown to have lunch with me, without even being called for jury duty. We went to Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, for, in the words of the late Ruth Gotthelf, real Chinese food. That consisted of shrimps with lobster sauce ($9.95, Monday-Thursday), roast pork fried rice and beef chow fun. While I missed the prices on the last two items, they were about $6.50 each, because the bill was just under $25 with tax . Portions, as always, were large, and the food was real Chinese food. It was an appropriate way to celebrate Smithtown Steve’s latest grandson, born just hours before Michael Jordan's birthday also.

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