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.  

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