Friday, May 31, 2013

Wedding and Movie News

Monday, May 27, 2013
It’s no surprise that I was thinking about weddings this weekend.  It is 10 years since America's Favorite Epidemiologist and I got married for the last time.  Even on a normal weekend, I faithfully read the social pages of the New York Times, deceptively named the Sunday Styles section, for the marriage news.  Among other things, I learned where Ruth Bader Ginsburg was Saturday morning, conducting a marriage ceremony in her chambers at the United States Supreme Court.  Also, Eastern District federal court judge John Gleeson and Second Circuit Court of Appeals judge Gerard E. Lynch picked up some spare change performing nuptials over the weekend.  Need I also point out that the feature story of the bonding of Alexis DiMartino and Kevin Cocca had a lovely photograph of the couple standing under “an archway of flowers and vines,” as the paper genteelly described the chuppah staring us in the face.  As a reminder to those of you who have not completed your conversion to Jew by contagion, a chuppah is the traditional canopy that shelters Jewish weddings.

My interest in marriages was especially piqued by the article on the weddings of high tech billionaires, such as Larry Ellison and Mark Zuckerberg.  I was galvanized by the description of the wedding of Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, to Anne Wojcicki, in 2007.  “The bride and groom, both 33 at the time, and many of 60 guests wore swimsuits (mandatory attire if you exchange vows on a sandbar).”  Now close your eyes for a moment.  Take a deep breath; keep your eyes closed.  Let your mind go back to any one of your weddings, and imagine you and your beloved and many of your guests in bathing suits.  This would certainly have eliminated the need to serve food, but would have made strong drink an absolute necessity for all concerned.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Up until today, I had only found one Korean restaurant in greater Chinatown, Jup She, 171 Grand Street (December 10, 2010), a very good choice.  Kori Tribeca, 253 Church Street, is another fine choice.  It occupies a long, narrow space with a tin ceiling high above.  A handful of Korean musical instruments hang on one wall.  A large white vase sits in front of a 4' x 4' damask cloth on another wall.  Several delicate boughs are set back in a sort of shadowbox effect.  Yet, the walls are so long and tall that room retains an open, understated feel.  Another notable design touch was the aluminum chopsticks, something I had not seen before.    

The lunch menu is quite simple, and a complimentary bowl of miso soup and a small dish of edamame, salted soy beans in their pod, are given to you while you choose.  You can’t help but notice the “Lunch Liquor Specials,” Sapporo on draft at $3 and wine by the glass at $5.  I noticed but passed.  I ordered the Bulgoki Lunch Box ($12.99), thin sliced beef in a delicious sweet, spicy, salty sauce with two fried dumplings, two small omelet slices, a small portion of Japchae (sweet potato noodles), a large green salad with a more flavorful dressing than usually offered in Japanese restaurants, and a large portion of white rice.  Excellent on the whole.  Adding to my pleasure was the background music, which I usually find repellant.  They were playing, at just the right volume if you wanted to ignore your companion, ‘60s bop, in the vein of Horace Silver, but not Horace Silver.  Even though I had the Sunday Times magazine to distract me, I was tapping my toes.  I almost danced right back to work. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013
John F. Kennedy was born May 29, 1917, making today his 96th birthday.  Several of us met to commemorate the occasion at Mott Pho Bang Restaurant, 157 Mott Street, a Vietnamese restaurant appropriately enough.  The six grandfathers at the table had no military exposure at all beyond hesitantly reporting for Army physicals in their late teens, early twenties.  However, all were (and remain) avid newspaper readers and the chaos in Southeast Asia was well-reported then, with the inevitable heavy-handed Washington gloss which was not hard to spot.  Keeping out of uniform was not a casual matter for us, although I think that we all, in the spirit of Apple’s tax payments, stayed within the law.  I imagine that, to those of you males under 60, “selective service” is just a term for expedited check-out at Wal-Mart.  But, in the goldie oldie days, it often meant bullets and grenades and sharp sticks pointed up in camouflaged trenches, not what your average Stuyvesant High School graduate foresaw in his future.  So, in that spirit, we ate and reminisced about our youth and what we did to preserve it.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
A movie opened in New York this week entitled “Hannah Arendt.”  It deals with the period of time that, in the words of the New York Times reviewer, this “writer of long books and [] maker of complex arguments” was reporting on the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem.  Her work resulted in substantial controversy because she concluded that Eichmann was ultimately a bland bureaucrat, representing “the banality of evil.”  Her critics quickly found her representation of Eichmann to be factually incorrect; he relished his role as an exterminator of Jews before, during and after the war.  However, Arendt’s concept of the banality of evil caused the greater furor because it might make any one or all of us perpetrators.  Many accused her of ultimately blaming the victims.  

But, let’s go back to the top of the previous paragraph stating that a movie opened in New York this week entitled “Hannah Arendt.”  Might we anticipate future releases of “Bertrand Russell,” “Ludwig Wittgenstein,” “Simone de Beauvoir,” “Isaiah Berlin” and an all-singing and dancing version of “Jacques Derrida”?  
Friday, May 31, 2013
New York City will elect  a new mayor this November.  Although overwhelmingly a Democratic city in state and national elections, New York City has had a Republican mayor for the last 20 years.  Nevertheless, the most interest at present is with the Democratic candidates.  The favorite so far has been Christine Quinn, the speaker of the City Council, who may have peaked too early according to Sid Davidoff, the very wise observer of local politics and authority on hotels and restaurants in Sicily.  I have not announced my preference yet among the several candidates, but Ms. Quinn has gravely endangered her standing by one of her revelations in her memoir just released in time for the Democratic primary battle.  This is how the New York Times reported it this morning: "When her future wife made clear during one of her early dates that she could only be with a Yankees fan, Christine C. Quinn did not hesitate: 'I dumped the Mets in a hot second.'"  While I don't expect my politicians to be uncompromising in their beliefs, there are some tenets that define a person's being and may be abandoned only at the risk of losing one's soul, and my vote.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hockey Sticks and Chopsticks

Monday, May 20, 2013
For several weeks, the grand staircase in front of the courthouse at 60 Centre Street, my daytime home, has been blocked by metal gates and yellow caution tape, allowing only a six-foot path up and down, in and out of the building. At first, I thought that we were being protected from demonstrators who might storm or occupy the steps in a fit of populist zeal. However, while there are frequent protests in and around City Hall, a couple of blocks away, none have migrated in our direction for quite some time. So I asked one of the senior court officers what’s up with that? It seems that our nemeses are not union organizers, left-wing protestors, right-wing protestors, or Law & Order freaks from near and far, but rather skateboarders. Their frolicking up and down the steps and balustrades have damaged the property, chipping away at the limestone/granite surfaces. Additionally, some skateboarders wax the surfaces to reduce the friction on their wheels, which does nothing for the surfaces or those who maintain them in the public interest. For Tavish’s benefit, I must admit that I have never owned, rented or borrowed a surfboard, snowboard or skateboard, so, absent the thrill of wafting over water, snow or concrete, I find myself as citizen-taxpayer-occupant cursing those buggers whose conduct has made a grand public space far less useful and far uglier.

The East is Red, as Chairman Mao used to say. In this case, red with Bing cherries, which are all over Chinatown. The going rate is pretty low, 2 lbs. for $3, but I saw 3 lbs. for $4 and 2 lbs. for $2.50 on the low end. Be careful though, the lowest prices matched the quality of bruised and overripe fruit and, remember, unless you have cultivated favor with the sidewalk fruit vendor, she will shovel the cherries into a bag without allowing any picking. I skipped the cherries and made an investment in apricots, 2 lbs. for $3.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013
I went to Shanghai Heping Restaurant, 104 Mott Street, just over one year ago, soon after it opened (April 25, 2012). Reading my notes after returning today, it seems that the pleasant decor has been revised since then, simplifying the decorative touches. For instance, the walls now have unfussy sconces where there were once photographs of old Shanghai, which I actually liked. The place was about half full, with a sprinkling of non-Chinese patrons. While the setting was comfortable, the many tables well-disbursed, the absence of a crossword puzzle abbreviated my stay somewhat.

I ordered from the lunch special list, about three dozen items priced from $4.95 to $6.95. I chose fish filet, Szechuan style over rice ($5.95), which actually delivered rice on the side of an almost-regular sized portion of fried fish surrounded by peppers of various colors, sizes and potencies. It was very good, even if I dodged the gastric bullets on the plate. I also ordered a scallion pancake ($2.50) because I could. It came after the fish was finished instead of its usual frontrunning position. Although the scallion pancake was more greasy than crispy, it was good.    

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
See if you can crack this set: May 16@7 PM, retreat debriefing; May 19@2 PM, visit by Katharine Geisz, author of "From the Danube to the Hudson;" May 21@7 PM, Mets game. I arranged for all of these events of my own free will, in advance of the scheduling of the second round of the hockey playoffs, thereby removing me from a television set at the height of the action. In all of these three instances, I was then spared from observing defeats for our noble Broadway Blues. The denouement, as they say in Quebec, is my interview about synagogue fundraising at 7:30 PM on Thursday, May 23rd, exactly corresponding to the fourth game in the current series. I won’t even raise the implications for our wedding anniversary on Saturday, May 25th, in case the series is extended to a fifth game.

According to Congressional testimony yesterday concerning Apple’s compliance with U.S. tax laws, we learned that "in 2011, 64 percent of Apple’s global pretax income was recorded in Ireland, where only 4 percent of its employees and 1 percent of its customers were located." This allowed Apple to avoid paying corporate taxes to the U.S. government, another name for you and me. Of course, Ireland ain’t here, it’s across the Atlantic Ocean, about 3,100 miles away from Times Square. So, Apple has no reason to let any of that pretend-to-be Irish money fall into your hands, right? Of course, according to today’s Times, "Apple’s $102 billion in offshore profits is actually managed by one of its wholly owned subsidiaries in Reno, Nev., according to the Senate report on the company’s tax avoidance. The money is tracked by Apple company bookkeepers in Austin, Tex. What’s more, the funds are held in bank accounts in New York." Are you comforted knowing that this money is really in American hands, just not Uncle Sam's?

Today’s lunch at Shanghai Asian Cuisine, 14A Elizabeth Street, was similar to yesterday’s. It was a return visit (April 7, 2010, October 17, 2011), although I did not notice any change in decor from the past. I ordered scallion pancake again ($2.50) and shrimp with lobster sauce over rice ($6). The scallion pancake was wonderful, very crispy although greasy. It was also at least 8" in diameter, larger than usual. The shrimp dish was also relatively generous for a lunch portion, partially covering a large mound of rice. It tasted good, better with a shot of soy sauce which improves the taste of almost anything except chocolate ice cream.

Thursday, May 23, 2013
I am public opinion. The other night I paused my DVR to take a telephone call from Quinnipiac University which aggressively promotes the survey results from its Polling Institute. For the next 25 minutes or more I gave my opinion of many local politicians and policies. My evaluation of the upcoming mayoral race was soon trumpeted on various news outlets: "May 22, 2013 - Quinn At 25% In New York City Dem Primary, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Little Support For Kelly For Mayor"

Of course, I relished being asked, but some questions annoyed me and I notice that a few of them did not make it into print, maybe because of my responses. When asked "Do you approve or disapprove of the way Mayor Bloomberg is handling the war on terror?" I replied that’s a stupid question, akin to asking "Do you approve or disapprove of the way President Obama is running the subways?"

Takahachi, 145 Duane Street, on my first visit today, served the best sushi that I can ever recall eating. The restaurant is long and relatively narrow. Beyond the entrance desk, the sushi bar with stools is on the left, opposite eight generously-proportioned two tops. Further back are about a dozen more tables under a skylight, all in a tasteful setting.

I had the mixed sushi ($16.50) which came with one smallish piece each of tuna, yellowtail and salmon, and a California roll cut into six pieces. The fish was fresh and delicious. The only problem was that I could have eaten three times the quantity of food that they served (which actually occurs in many venues). First came a choice of white or red miso soup and a small green salad. I chose the red, a cloudy, mild-flavored beef broth. They served two "sides" with the sushi plate, not cole slaw and fries as you might hope for, but a cucumber seaweed salad and a piece of tofu in what appeared to be a fiery sauce which turned out to be sweet and soy. Both sides tasted very good and were very small. In all, this was an excellent meal for a small person.

Going to Takahachi when you are ravenously hungry might be a mistake, but you can make a much bigger mistake if you walk into Rosanjin, another Japanese restaurants two doors away at 141 Duane Street, thinking that all kimonos look alike in the dark. Rosanjin features kaiseki cuisine, described by the restaurant as "a sensibly choreographed [multi-]course meal consisting of small dishes served at carefully timed intervals. A typical kaiseki menu consists of eight courses. It invariably includes an ornately composed appetizer, a clear soup, sashimi, sushi, a grilled dish, a simmered dish, a steamed course and a dish with rice. The courses are brought in one at a time, in beautiful porcelain bowls and lacquer dishes." This choreography is available in $80, $120, $150 and $200 versions. The risk of facing major embarrassment by turning into the wrong doorway on Duane Street is mitigated, however, by several factors. Rosanjin is only open for dinner, outside the bounds of Grandpa Alan’s lunch hour forays. And, only the $80 and $120 meals are available for walk-in customers should you not look where you are going. The upper end takes more time to prepare, for chef and guest alike. The $120 meal requires one-day advanced reservations, except for Saturday when two days are needed; the $150 meal requires three-days advanced reservations. To reserve for either of these, a credit card number must be supplied, which will be charged if you decide to open a can of sardines at home instead. The two-star review in the New York Times said: "Meals at Rosanjin in TriBeCa can verge on excessive subtlety and daintiness, leaving you hungry two hours later despite all the money you’ve spent." Somehow, I don’t think that this is my kind of restaurant, even though another reviewer reported that "[d]inner at an elite kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto can cost upwards of $500 per person." If you find this kind of bargain appealing, you still shouldn’t plan to hold Dudley’s bar mitzvah there, because Rosanjin only holds 22 people.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Nolo Contendre

Monday, May 13, 2013
If you have Nook or Kindle, you are fortunate to have access to Susan Schneider’s new novel, "Fire in My Ears."

Before I even sat down in West New Malaysia Restaurant in the Chinatown Arcade, between Elizabeth Street and the Bowery, I ordered roti canai ($3.75) as a starter, that wonderful Indian pancake to be dipped into a small bowl of curried chicken and potato. Then, the waiter and I discussed what was to follow. He urged me to try choy kway teow ($7.50), listed under noodles without any explanation. It turned out to be an excellent choice, chow fun noodles, thin sliced beef, shrimp, egg, scallions, bean sprouts and flecks of hot red pepper. The portion was large, making the choice even more satisfying.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Steve Schneider came downtown for lunch to celebrate the publication of Susan Schneider’s new novel, "Fire in My Ears." Steve and Susan are somehow related by marriage. We went to the brand new Cafe Hong Kong (no accent), 51 Bayard Street. It is the third restaurant at that location I’ve visited in slightly more than 40 months, replacing most recently Pho 88, a better-than-average Vietnamese restaurant. The Cafe appears to be related to the Hong Kong Station, a few doors down, and its sister establishment on Division Street, with the same color scheme and similar exterior design elements. However, the inside is quite different, offering a large, diverse menu and table service, unlike the informal, noodle-centric fare at Hong Kong Station. It has two round tables, about 6 four-tops and 10 two-tops, with just about every seat taken while we were there.

In addition to 56 noodle and rice dishes, 57 entrées, soups, congee, and an extensive beverage service, the Cafe offered steaks with side dishes of spaghetti. I think that they may be overreaching. In any case, Steve and I ordered 3 things from the 41-item lunch special list, all at $6.95. We chose shrimp with lobster sauce, Szechuan beef and chicken with cashew nuts. Each came with a bowl of white rice, but, save tea, nothing else. Portions were medium-small, and all the dishes were carefully prepared with fresh-tasting ingredients, yet rather bland.

The on-line New York Times has this headline today: "What Is the Right Way to Come Out as Bisexual at Work?" There is none. Shut up. I’m trying to do my work. Also, I’m not interested in your deeply-felt opinion of asparagus, cowboys, turtles, Woodrow Wilson or saxophones. Keep it to yourself until I ask. Group therapy begins after 6 PM.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Four soft shell crabs at Wo Hop downstairs for $10.95, and I didn’t even think that I was hungry.

Thursday, May 16, 2013
With the news consumed by Benghazi (a Republican masturbatory fantasy), and the appearance of real abuses of power at the IRS and the Associated Press, I need the sports pages more than ever. Lunch was also a pleasant diversion as I spent the hour with Marty the Super Clerk at 71 Thomas Street where I was assigned to assist with case scheduling conferences in the afternoon. We went, as we typically do, to Pecan Café, 130 Franklin Street, which offers somewhat-imaginative sandwiches (cranberry chicken, salmon burger, sweet potato), soups, and salads. The large space combines old-timey touches, such as an exposed brick wall and a tin ceiling, with track lighting and exposed duct work. Most folks order the lunch special, soup, small salad or half a sandwich, a bag of chips, a cookie or a fruit, and a drink for about $12. Pecan also has a coffee menu and, throughout the day, computer-wielding people 1/3 my age occupy the long wooden tables. Pecan isn’t Asian, although I believe some Israelis are involved, so it doesn’t alter my count.

Friday, May 17, 2013
I could have sworn that I ate at Pho Viet Huong, 73 Mulberry Street, early in this (ad)venture. It sits a couple of doors above Bayard Street on a stretch that I pass several times each week. Yet, in doing some research on local Vietnamese restaurants, I could not match its name to my lunches. Besides these musings, I keep a list of restaurants visited fitting the mandated criteria, East Asian, greater Chinatown vicinity, lunch. However, the list is merely a word processing document, not a spreadsheet or database, so information retrieval and analysis is admittedly crude. I went there today and am sorry that I didn’t get there sooner.

Pho Viet Huong looks like a dump from the outside, which may be a partial explanation why I ignored it. However, it is large, airy and roomy inside, with between 2 and 3 dozen tables. The menu is also large, over 200 items based on most familiar creatures that move on land, in the air and through the seas. I ordered barbecued beef, fried egg on broken rice ($7.50). Sayeth WikiPedia: "Co’m tâm, or broken rice, is a Vietnamese dish made from rice with fractured rice grains." The grains did look small, but were not otherwise unusual. They were piled high next to several thin slices of nicely grilled beef, a fried egg sitting on top of a tomato slice, and a cucumber slice. As in almost all other Vietnamese restaurants, five or so different sauces sat on the tables at Pho Viet Huong. I squeezed some dark, sweet stuff on the rice for variety. Very good in all, although prices on many main courses were in the mid to high teens, a couple of bucks more than some of its competitors.

The revelation that I missed a restaurant right under my nose is overshadowed by the next tale. I’ve complained in the past about not being discovered by all the TV and movie crews that populate the neighborhood around the courthouse for days on end. Well, I was caught on camera recently, but not under the most flattering circumstances.

For years, I’ve been irked by the condition of a terrace on a low floor directly below Palazzo di Gotthelf. It’s heaped with odds and ends, empty flower posts, discarded outdoor furniture, bags of planting materials, offering an ugly sight for the hundreds of people passing by each day, including potential buyers of semi-expensive apartments. The condition is also a violation of our building’s house rules and possibly New York City’s building code as well. The items may also be a threat during a storm and pose a fire hazard as they sit and rot. I have to pass by this mess every day, one, two, three, four times according to events.

I’ve mentioned this condition to members of the co-op board and other owner-occupants to no avail. I know the owner-occupant of the offending property by sight, but I never approached him, for better or worse, because I don’t like the cut of his jib, as we ancient mariners say. But, I’ve stewed day after day, year after year. So a couple of weeks ago, I printed a few sheets of paper calling terse, but polite, attention to the situation by unit number, and I pasted them in the building’s mailroom and in a back hallway on a couple of days. It doesn’t compare with that guy standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square or Freedom Riders on Greyhound buses, but I had to take a stand.

Well, the other day I received an expensively-delivered letter from the building’s law firm calling upon me to cease and desist from violating house rules by posting notices on the premises without permission. It seems that Grandpa Alan photographs very well on the building’s video surveillance equipment. First thing Thursday morning, I called the attorney who signed the letter and informed him that I have reacquainted myself with the house rules and will comply with them henceforth. He accepted my promise without the need for any confession. He also listened to my complaint and suggested how I might convey my concerns more efficaciously without running afoul of the authorities. I forgot to ask him for a print of the film, however, for that time in the future when I will want to recall my days as a delinquent.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Retreat Back

Monday, May 6, 2013
The anarchic Jews of West End Synagogue had a delightful weekend in the country.  The weather was more than cooperative for our annual retreat.  Daytime temperatures approached 70, while nearing 40 overnight.  Our cabins were a step above rustic, with heating and plumbing that worked consistently, at least for most of us.  The cabins sat along a lovely lake, where mist floated in the early hours after sunrise.  The food was more or less classic Kosher, which, absent the loving touch of a European-accented grandmother, comes off pretty dull. Quantities were generally ample.  
Because of the lovely weather, many daytime sessions were held outdoors, which is where religion started, after all.  Mt. Sinai wasn’t in a mall, you know. 
Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich, 369 Broome Street, advertises the “Most Authentic Vietnamese Sandwich In Town.”  This is not quite the same as the boast of Banh Mi, Vietnamese Sandwich, 73 West Broadway, that it offers the “Best Vietnamese Sandwich” (April 25, 2013).  After having a curry chicken (dark meat) sandwich ($5.50) at Saigon today, I may have to acknowledge it as the best, even if I don’t know what would make it the most authentic.  It was slightly larger and a dollar cheaper than Banh Mi’s, which, in fact, is the Vietnamese term for bread and has come to mean the baguette sandwich generally.  My sandwich contained shredded carrots, cilantro, cucumber spears, chili peppers and hot sauce, upon request, atop the chicken, on a very fresh baguette.
Saigon had two short ledges in the front window with 4 stools, and a bench outside.  While you might not consider lingering in Saigon, it is a reasonable alternative for those of us who missed winning an all-expense trip to Vietnam a few decades ago.  
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
In making my lunchtime forays as recorded herein hereof, I’ve eaten on the Bowery dozens of times and traversed it probably hundreds.  I take it for granted that it is THE BOWERY.  How far is the Bowery from here? What’s the address on the Bowery?  With every visit to a new establishment, I take a menu and/or a business card in order to provide at least some correct information along with my skewed opinions.  Some places on the Bowery, list their address as Bowery Street, which I’ve chosen to ignore as an ESL oversight.  However, on the subway this morning, reading the latest issue of the New Yorker, I found a description of a new restaurant named Pearl & Ash, at “220 Bowery St.”  It might have been bad enough to read about “this glittering cave of haute hipster fine dining,” open for dinner only, with entrées from $23 to $28, located on the Bowery.  
You don’t have to be as old as me to remember when the only places to eat on the Bowery were soup kitchens. This was ironic because several blocks of the Bowery were, and still are, occupied by restaurant equipment suppliers, offering appliances, pots and pans, cutlery, dishes, serving pieces and the like to the trade.  But, once upon a time, you could not buy a meal on the Bowery, although you could buy a drink at many places.  [I expect Jon Silverberg to annotate this thought with specific citations to openings and closings in the distant past.]
But, I’m talking addresses, not menus.  The New Yorker has chosen to sound like the old lady in Dubuque, whom it famously eschewed at its inauguration.  WikiPedia notes that it is “commonly called ‘the Bowery’ and, less commonly, ‘Bowery Street.’”  WikiPedia continues, “Bowery is an anglicisation of the Dutch bouwerij, derived from an antiquated Dutch word for ‘farm.’”  Street does not belong here.  It feels like Richard Nixon wearing a belt and suspenders.  Is Broadway Avenue on the cartographic horizon?
As I examined the sidewalk fruit stands after lunch, I saw for the first time that I can recall “wax apples,” also labeled Vietnamese apples.  As you can see, they look like little pears with a strain of bell pepper mixed in.  
I was curious, but at $5 a pound I curbed my enthusiasm. However, my friendly little fruit lady on Mulberry Street (east side), just below Canal Street, offered me one.  She remembers me ever since I had MOHS surgery last year, which left me particularly fierce looking for a few days.  The wax apple, as is the case of several other unfamiliar Asian fruits that I’ve tried, looks far better than it tastes.   
Wednesday, May 8, 2013 
Wow!  Another good reason to move to sunny South Carolina.  
Today’s New York Law Journal reports a decision of the Appellate Division, First Department, affirming a lower court’s determination that the dismissal of a fifth-grade teacher was “shocking to one’s sense of fairness.”  The teacher, responding to a report of the drowning of a student at another school on a field trip, posted comments on Facebook about her students, such as, “After today, I am thinking the beach sounds like a wonderful idea for my 5th graders!  I HATE THEIR GUTS!  They are the devils spawns!” She subsequently falsely denied writing the comments, and then implicated a friend.  After several hearings, the Department of Education terminated her employment.  The lower court judge overruled the department and suspended the teacher for two years without pay.  The appellate court accepted this ruling under the following dubious rationale:
“Although the comments were clearly inappropriate, it is apparent that petitioner’s purpose was to vent her frustration only to her online friends after a difficult day with her own students.  None of her students or their parents were part of her network of friends and, thus, the comments were not published to them, nor to the public at large, and petitioner deleted the comments three days later.”  
This story brought back the memory of an incident in my past when I found myself in a miserable teaching job in a miserable school, the worst imitation of a fancy-schmancy prep school imaginable.  Not only did I teach English, social studies and gym (which wasn’t so hard considering that the school had no gym and we – the young scholars and I – spent the time smoking in the parking lot), I lived in this joint.  One night, as I was getting the little angels ready for bed, John D. (yes, I still remember his full name) was particularly uncooperative, so I threw a wet wash cloth in his face and called him a jerk, or something similar.  When called to account by the faux headmaster, I explained that the early adolescent years were a time of finding one’s identity and I was contributing to the process in John D.’s case.

Michael Ratner, fresh from a bicycling trip in the Netherlands, came to lunch, armed with many stories, but no tulips. We ate at New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe, 50 Mott Street, a comfortable, attractive restaurant, that also has good food at very reasonable prices at lunch.  We started with a scallion pancake ($2.25) and then ordered three lunch specials for the two of us.  We each got a bowl of hot and sour soup as part of the special, without asking for the third bowl for absent friends.  Then, we shared beef with scallions ($5.75), diced chicken with black bean sauce ($4.95) and shrimp with lobster sauce ($5.95), a bowl of white rice alongside each.  While the portions of the entrées were modest, the quality was high and, taken together we had a very good meal.  The best news, although I did not get empirical verification, is that Michael returned from 5 days on a bicycle without blisters on his tuchis.   
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Many folks have wondered why Grandpa Alan never became a professional athlete considering his formidable physique and his avid interest in sports.  That’s not an easy question to answer because of the many aspects of personality that it touches upon.  However, some insight is available from a story today about Vijay Singh, a very successful professional golfer, who is challenging a doping allegation.  When I went to Fairway the other day, I purchased chocolate chip cookies, Diet Coke, 3 everything bagels, and potato salad (the kind with the egg and mayonnaise, not the vinegar).  I did not pause for a moment in front of the deer antler spray.  I wouldn’t even know what to do with deer antler spray.  Is it like Turtle Wax?  Do you get it from or apply it to deer antlers?  I am no more likely to purchase deer antler spray than Foster Farms Honey Crunchy Flavor Corn Dogs, even though available also in mini and jumbo sizes.  Yet, Singh was recently disciplined for his admitted use of deer antler spray, which contains IGF-1, an insulin-like growth factor, believed to be a performance enhancer.  See, I had no idea that deer antler spray may have been the key to my thwarted athletic career.  It may be too late, but I think I’m going to put out some deer antler spray on our living room coffee table along with the M&Ms.  

Friday, May 3, 2013

Retreat Ahead

Monday, April 29, 2013
Usually, I go to Mets games with Gilbert Glotzer, attorney to the stars. Yesterday, however, my companion was David B., M.D. and I needed a doctor as the Mets catcher dropped a pop fly in foul territory with two men out and no one on base. The batter proceeded to get a hit with his extended life, followed by the next batter getting a hit, followed by the replacement of the Mets pitcher who had been cruising until then, followed by the offensive substitution of one of the best hitters in baseball, who hit a long double, scoring the two ahead of him, followed by the Mets forgetting that hitting the ball is an important part of the game. Now, David is a general practitioner which was adequate for the ordinary aches and pains that this loss caused. Had the Mets lost in more dramatic fashion, blowing a big lead in the last inning or some such, a cardiologist would have been required. Also, this was the first loss that I witnessed live in person after three games this young season, so it’s too early for a psychiatrist.

Today, at lunchtime, the weather was chilly and damp, drizzling just enough to justify opening the umbrella and not stopping into any of the three brand new dessert/beverage joints I passed as I returned materials to the library branch on East Broadway. Instead, I went to Great N.Y. Noodletown, 28 Bowery, which failed to impress me on two prior visits. However, just as Barry Manilow takes requests from the audience, I responded to the urging of Irene L., loyal reader, to give it another try. I ordered roast duck with E-foo noodles ($10.95). Of course, I had no idea what E-foo noodles were, but I was not disappointed. At first glance, you might mistake them for lo-mein, but closer examination shows that E-foo (E-fu in some venues) noodles are flat not round, with a slight twist to them if laid out. The large portion of noodles was surrounded by a halo of Chinese broccoli and contained shredded carrots, bean sprouts, lots of Walt Disney mushrooms and tasty chunks of duck (could have been more). It was a very good dish on the whole and my glass of tea was kept full and hot. So, thank you, Irene.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013
It’s not too soon to plan for Tuesday afternoon, May 14th, when Häagen-Dazs stores, including the one at the corner of Mott Street and Bayard Street in Chinatown, will be giving out free cones between the hours of 4 and 8 PM. Enjoy.

With some good real estate news and a hefty income tax refund, this bright, sunny day looked even better. Not quite in the mood to explore, I went to New Mandarin Court, 61 Mott Street, a favorite even when it wasn’t New. Unlike many other Chinatown restaurants at lunchtime, it offers dim sum and a menu of lunch specials. Only one cart was moving around with about 8 dim sum choices. I took shu mai and shrimp dumplings, 4 pieces to a plate at $3. Then, I ordered orange flavor chicken ($5.50) which came with white rice. Everything was good, and the price was right. Attendance was weak, though. Only about a dozen people were in the restaurant with me, possibly because construction right outside made it easy to skirt around the front door.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Mangez Avec Moi, 71 West Broadway, seems to be a deviation from this (ad)venture’s mission to focus on East Asian restaurants. However, lest we forget that Southeast Asia was colonized by the French for a century from the 1850s to the 1950s, Mangez Avec Moi advertises "authentic pan Asian cuisine." And I will never forget the phrase mangez avec moi, one of the few things that I retain from three years of studying French in high school. The room is a small box with high ceiling covered in pressed tin. The floor looks very old, made of hexagonal tiles. The walls are bare, although a note said that art is coming (a line I think I heard Nathan Lane utter in "The Nance"). There are about 20 small 2 top tables, moved around to accommodate groups of all sizes.

The menu leans toward Vietnamese and Thai food, with a large number of choices. There are 27 weekday lunch specials at $8.50, smaller and cheaper than at other times, with a choice of white or brown rice. I had Massaman peanut curry chicken with brown rice. Research tells me that Massaman is a Thai curry of Muslim origin. The word itself is thought to have derived from Mussulman, an archaic word for Muslim. The curry was good, spicy hot as the menu promised. A few pieces of potato supplemented the chicken, adding bulk to the dish and meeting my two starch with every meal requirement. A carafe of water with a slice of lemon floating in it came right away without asking, but hot tea doesn’t even appear on the menu.

I interrupted my four-block crosstown walk to Mangez Avec Moi by stopping at one of the two sidewalk stands selling men’s ties. One guy is located on Broadway between Reade Street and Chambers Street, the other on Reade Street, about 10 feet west of Broadway. The guy on Broadway sells his (predominantly silk) ties for $3, 2 for $5, displayed folded in boxes. The other guy sells his for $2, 3 for $5, stretched out in cellophane sleeves. I usually stop by one or the other on the way to the subway after work in nice weather, and the 150 or so ties in my closet show that I do more than pass the time of day with these gents. While you have to keep your eye out for stains or pulled threads (more likely in the folded but more expensive [!!] ties), the quality of the goods from either is remarkably high. You’ll find, if you look carefully, ties from Joseph Abboud, Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Jerry Garcia, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (being worn at this moment), Lands’ End, Brooks Brothers (verily), and my greatest score, Shakespeare on a medium-blue background from Josh Bach, normally $49, now discontinued. By the way, the labels are not randomly affixed to available merchandise, a practice that seemed to define shopping in Shanghai.  Having spent enough time, but as little money as possible, buying ties, I can recognize styles and designs from leading sources. Understand, you probably won’t find the same thing twice. I’ve never found another Josh Bach on either table – the three others that I own were gifts, two from wonderful step-children. So, I bought 3 ties for $5 on the way to lunch, although only one tie spoke to me from the same table yesterday. By the way, I got my Mets tie from the guy on Broadway, but my Rangers tie I found at a flea market upstate.

Friday, May 3, 2013
No work today because the anarchic Jews of West End Synagogue are holding their annual retreat, for which I have some responsibility.  We're heading for a campsite in Copake, NY, about 100 miles due north of New York City, a lot closer to where real Americans live.  For better or worse, we will remain insulated from the outside world because we will be the only occupants of the facility, which houses a children's camp as well as an adult camp during the summer.  In fact, we will be opening the season for them.  That might yield pleasure in newly-painted and refurbished quarters, or distress as the staff scurries around looking for  missing equipment and supplies.  I'll know the results in 48 hours, and, should they be less than satisfactory, I'll hear about it at least until 5775.