Friday, March 15, 2013

Reading About People I Know

Monday, March 11, 2013
Judy Bardack is a lovely person, funny, intelligent and honest. However, she had the misfortune over the weekend of being quoted in the New York Times, and, inevitably, sounding a bit goofy. That is, anyone who faces the media without professional assistance and a Valium is bound to sound goofy.  The topic was a celebration of the closing of a restaurant that systematically cheated its workers out of wages, according to a federal judge.  About $2 million has been paid by the owners in restitution, but the doors were closed with another million still owing.  The restaurant sat on Judy’s corner and, admitting that she never ate there, she was quoted as saying: “I’m a liberal, but I found this offensive.  This was not the worst abuse in the world, and they managed to hound them out of business.  I mean, the balloons!” She later explained to me that her primary concern was the level of festivities conducted under her windows day and night, rather than compliance with the wages and hours law.  But, they spelled her name right.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Burro Borracho Taqueria, 251 Church Street, is obviously not an Asian restaurant and my visit at lunch will not add to the count.  However, it is worth knowing about because I enjoyed the food.  I had a burrito poblano ($7.50), about 6" long and 4" in diameter, bursting with shredded chicken, rice, shredded lettuce, black beans, avocado and sour cream.  It was tasty, but it could have used a bit of hot sauce which I failed to ask for.  The food was the only thing to recommend because the interior of the restaurant was crummy.  The first bench I sat on attempted to deposit me on the floor.  Moving over to a solidly-anchored bench put me at a table that leaned heavily whenever any weight, including that of a hefty burrito, was placed upon it.  There was also an unpleasant smell, possibly from the upholstery, that inhibited enjoyment. To summarize, this is a good place for take-out. 

As if I wasn’t popular enough, the latest issue of the Stuyvesant High School Alumni Spectator lists me and one other person as organizers of our next class reunion, sometime this 55th year after graduation.  This information was a complete surprise to me, since the last e-chat session among those of us who ran our 50th reunion concluded that we would pass until 60 rolls around, or so I recall.  However, one day after the publication arrived in the mail, I’ve already received inquiries as to time and place.  Even if our little group, growing littler with the passage of time, decides to gather sooner rather than later, the planning of such an event needs months and months and months.  If one of you is not using your ballroom in late September let me know. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Samuel Fuchs, Stuyvesant ‘14, working on a feature article for the school newspaper, called me last night to get my opinion on the consolidation of the school’s team names, a subject I have ranted on (October 24, 2011).  At that time, I discussed the proliferation of Stuyvesant team names, about 22 different names for 26 teams, male and female.  The traditional Peglegs, the only name we used in my day, was now used only by the football team and the boys’ lacrosse team.  A few of the names showed imagination – bowling team Pinheads, fencing team Untouchables, girls’ golf team Birdies.  Others were neither witty nor logical, as far as I could discern – cross-country team Greyducks, girls’ tennis team Lobsters.  Samuel told me that my list is now obsolete, although the latest collection seems to suffer from the same unnecessary randomness.  

Which brings us to the question of what should be the single, most appropriate name for Stuyvesant’s sports teams?  Instinctively, I think of Peglegs, describing Peter Stuyvesant’s obvious physical characteristic and the name long associated with the school’s teams.  Of course, this may be viewed as insulting to physically-challenged (handicapped is out) people. But, I am not in a position to weigh the effect and I only see the affectionate humor in the name. Of course, most of the privileged caste usually regard their nicknames for their lessers to be humorous if not affectionate.  You don’t use shines or sheenies or gooks in a serious sentence.  So far, the only objection to the use of Peglegs that I’ve heard has come from fully able people. Shall I wait until those implicitly derided express their objections?  Is this akin to the tree falling in the woods?  

If there should be a name other than Peglegs, I strongly support Dutchmen even to describe the women’s teams.  Stuyvesant was a Dutchman after all.  His progeny, even if symbolic, are properly denoted then as Dutchmen.  Those clever alternatives now in use for specific teams, such as Pinheads or Birdies, have no unique tie to Stuyvesant; they might be in use at any school anywhere.  In the end, I’m sticking to Peglegs because of its historical accuracy and the vicarious thrill that someone missing a limb might experience when the Peglegs triumph.  I don’t thing that describing a Stuyvesant team as the Prosthetics would have the same impact.

Another lunch party in Chinatown.  Art, Tom, Bill, Ken and Stony Brook Steve crowded into Wo Hop downstairs, 17 Mott Street, with me for an abundant amount of classic Chinatown Chinese food.  We ate fried won tons, barbecued spare ribs, roast duck chow fun, Singapore chow mei fun, jumbo shrimp with lobster sauce, beef with scallions, honey crispy beef and chicken fried rice.  Tea flowed freely and it cost us $20 per person (because we tipped generously having sat longer than usual in the rapid-turnover environment of Wo Hop).  

Thursday, March 14, 2013
One reason that I arranged a big lunch yesterday was in anticipation of today’s events.  Multiple teeth extracted, replaced by implants, while sedated for 3 ½ hours.  Then, 5 hours with my mouth open, which is not unusual except that nothing was coming out except grunts and drools.  By day’s end, my appearance had changed, the net number of teeth in my mouth had decreased, and I had spent enough to buy a Toyota Camry, but not the hybrid model.   

Friday, March 15, 2013
I stayed home to nurse my wounds, but can’t claim to be more than slightly sore today. However, a story in the newspaper has caused me genuine pain.  A co-worker, who sat in the office immediately next to mine, who has been on maternity leave since the birth of her first child, committed suicide on Wednesday.  She jumped out of her apartment window with her son strapped in a baby-carrier.  Fortunately, the child survived.  This is shocking under any circumstances, but I knew her as a delightful woman.  Members of our department sit in small offices, usually two at a time, behind closed, even locked, doors.  Whether it was her friendly demeanor or her husband as another rabid Rangers fan, I often stopped by to chat with her for a couple of minutes.  I was very happy that they were having a child when in their 40s.  While I had not seen her since she took leave, I looked forward to her return.

Now, I read speculation about the insidious depression that led to her death with the attempt to destroy her child as well.  While on two different planes, I relate my feelings about Stuyvesant nicknames and my friend’s suicide.  I can’t understand being on the outside in either instance.  I am physically whole, give or take some teeth, although diminished in strength and stamina by time.  Mentally, I have my share of neuroses, but I get up each day without more than a whiff of fear and loathing for what I have to contend with.  I act out a bit, but usually without requiring the intervention of men in blue or men in white. 

My co-worker had feelings and thoughts that no one else could fathom. Her husband, a pleasant man that I met at Madison Square Garden, is left with an infant to raise, and questions that will take at least his lifetime to answer.  I’m sad as if that makes a difference.

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