Friday, August 30, 2013

The Death of Allan S. Gotthelf

Friday, August 30, 2013
I just learned that my cousin Allan, just 10 months younger than I am, died today after surviving about 20 years with advanced prostate cancer.  I'm sending out this message to avoid possible confusion when his obituary appears, as I expect it will.  He had been a long-time academic with a number of publications in philosophy.  

The likelihood of confusion, based on the near-identity of our names (note the double LL and the middle initial that distinguish us), is enhanced by significant common biographical details, such as simultaneous attendance at PS 159 and Stuyvesant High School, although separated by one grade.  Then, while I was in City College, Allan was in Brooklyn College.  With graduate school -- me Cornell, him Penn State and Columbia -- our paths permanently diverged.  

Allan pursued his graduate studies, eventually getting a doctorate from Columbia, and taught for decades.  I took a far more convoluted path, emerging from graduate school scathed, with a token master's degree, got into computer programming by chance, spent 30 years in (and sometimes out of) business, and finally found my niche in law school, when many of my peers were retiring, which prepared me for my present role as a career law clerk.  Allan has a list of distinguished publications in philosophy and continued his research and writing until his last days.  I seek out Chinese restaurants and distribute random observations about menus and (hu)mankind.  

Our divergence was more than geographic and bibliographic.  Allan was a leading acolyte of Ayn Rand, and many of his publications deal with her ideas.  I, on the other hand, was never attracted to her work, her arrogant certainty and the cultish devotion to her view of rugged individuals besting man and nature.  I believe that, if video games had been introduced 40 or 50 years earlier, much of the attention that she drew from adolescents would have instead been directed to the navigation of torturous travails by the proper application of thumbs.

In any case, Allan and I saw each other in recent years, enjoying good meals and conversation.  I marveled at his staying power in spite of his grave medical condition, and his pursuit of cultural and intellectual interests.  He returned to the classroom after his official retirement, which was only a nominal designation.  He continued to travel extensively, and, no doubt, left friends and admiring students over a vast territory.  

Allan leaves only one sister and a collection of cousins, beginning with my brother and myself.  I'll miss him, but I have to hope that I am spared some explaining when people find that I am still around.

March of Time

Monday, August 26, 2013
A few weeks ago, blueberries and raspberries that I picked myself sat atop my breakfast cereal. This morning, it was a peach, hand-picked from a grove in central Massachusetts yesterday. The other 20 or so in the bag that I filled were still rock-hard, but one beauty was ready for my enjoyment. I was not even overly-bothered when the telephone rang at 8:05 with someone requesting funds for a dubious charity. I’ve learned that staying home during the day serves to attract such calls, like bees to honey, but to be jangled up before you even get out of the house is quite bothersome.

Between arriving home last evening and breakfast this morning, I had already faced a daunting challenge. Due to a very rare lapse in the efficiency of the administrative staff of the Palazzo di Gotthelf, the New York Times was not notified of our departure for the weekend. As we crossed the moat and approached our front door, we saw copies of both the Saturday newspaper and the Sunday newspaper sitting there. This meant that pounds of newsprint confronted us as we started the week. Usually, we get a head start on the weekend, reading the real estate, travel, arts & leisure sections as well as the local, national and international news to cheer us up. Of course, the society pages come right after the sports pages for me, so that I might be aware of those embarking on lives of harmony and bliss, hoping that they never experience a three-game sweep by the Detroit Tigers.

I went to Shanghai Café Deluxe, 100 Mott Street, for lunch and found that the last time I was there (January 7, 2011), it had not designated itself "Deluxe," so my restaurant count goes up 1. I could find little else that differed, and I ordered scallion pancake again ($2.25), and again I was very pleased with the flaky result. More than pleased; this is a front-line scallion pancake. As a concession to the lovely warm, but not hot, weather, I picked cold sesame noodles ($5.95) and received an enormous portion of this good dish. I mean I kept looking for a little man shoveling noodles into the bowl as fast as I shoveled them into my mouth. Three healthy people should share this portion which I barely made a dent in.

The restaurant’s decor retains its unusual lighting created by neon tubes in different shapes behind frosted glass panels. Add a mirrored ball and there would be a spontaneous karaoke combustion.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Another Peking duck day, this time at New Mandarin Court, 69 Mott Street, a restaurant that reliably offers dim sum and a regular menu at lunch time. I had half a duck ($20), which came with five spongy bun wrappers, not the rice pancakes offered by some. It was okay, no better than a B-, because of the abundant fat and slight amount of meat on what appeared to be a large carcass. I’ll continue my random search for the Great Duck; Mottzar Kitchen, 70 Mott Street, so far leads the pack (August 7, 2013).    

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fifty years ago, I went on the March on Washington, traveling by bus from Ithaca overnight, returning late the next afternoon. After all this time, some memories remain clear, others lost in the fog. For instance, I don’t remember whether we paid for the ride and who among my friends and acquaintances went along. I sat next to an African-American man from the Elmira vicinity, active in the local NAACP. Once in DC, on a typical warm summer day, as the afternoon wore on, I sat with my feet in a reflecting pool to cool off. I had to have heard Martin Luther King’s speech, but I don’t know that I would swear to it.

I am still surprised that I found my way back to our bus among the hundreds of vehicles and thousands of people gathered for the event. Most gratifying about the experience was its peaceful character. Many people, including my parents, feared violence from one source or another as thousands of vehicles, filled with black and white people together, traveled through dense urban and empty rural areas of our country. We felt good and we did good, if only for a time. If you look carefully at this front page, you can find me babbling some nonsense, enhanced by being slightly misquoted.

To help commemorate this day, some of the Boyz gathered for lunch at the Golden Unicorn, 18 East Broadway, the always lively dim sum joint that opens a second floor on weekends to handle very large crowds. The discussion topics included municipal politics, eruvs (the Jesuitical gimmick that allows Jews to labor on the Sabbath, after a fashion), and what happened to Norman Lear’s legacy of not-entirely-mindless television comedy.

Thursday, August 29, 2013
Last night, I learned that Ellen Goodhill died this past Friday of lung cancer, only detected on May1st. She and I were married for seven years, and divorced more than 30 years. She changed her name to distance herself from me, no doubt, but also to give the inattentive an easier name to pronounce. We communicated occasionally. Any rancor between us was long neutralized by time and distance. She asked my advice on several important matters, most recently on her plan to endow Holocaust studies in memory of her paternal grandfather, who died on a transport to Auschwitz in 1942, and her parents, who escaped Austria and fled to Shanghai, a rare haven for stateless Jews.

I knew about her illness for less than two months. Her last e-mail message to me explained that she was forgoing chemotherapy because of its awful toll and the negligible prospect of improving her condition. While I replied with a simple message of support and concern, I hesitated calling her because I could not imagine what I could say under the circumstances. However, without any mutual contacts remaining to give me any updated information, I telephoned last night, hoping to remind her of the many wonderful qualities that attracted me to her and which I continued to admire even apart. Instead, I spoke to her husband (of 19 years) who has lost a vibrant, inquisitive, imaginative companion.

Audrey Bakery and Café, 12 Chatham Square, is open only one week. A long bakery counter takes up most of the right side of the joint, and an open display case about half the left side. Seating is provided at seven two-tops with the furniture made of dark laminate and chrome. Faux stone covers most of the walls. A sign in the window proclaims that no lard is used in their baked goods, a welcome departure from typical Chinatown bakery products. Most items available were sweet, but there were about 10 sandwiches and savory buns.

I had a "Japanese hand roll" ($2), and a pineapple pudding ($1.50). The hand roll was a 5" swirl, cut on the bias, containing egg, lettuce, pickle, maybe bacon bits. I asked for it to be warmed up and it wasn’t bad. The pudding was a 4" cylinder, about 3" high, with a bland pudding, not tasting of pineapple, in its scooped-out top, not more than 1" deep. Actually, with a cup of coffee (I had iced tea), it would make a decent and very filling mid-morning or mid-afternoon treat, since the dough was light, not greasy, and only slightly sweet.

It took 50 years to get it right, but today’s Ithaca Journal quotes me coherently about the March on Washington.

Friday, August 30, 2013
Ending this week where much time and attention was devoted to race and civil rights, because of the anniversary of the March on Washington, I believe that this country is still burdened by a genetically-modified version of a famous Woody Guthrie song:

This land ain't your land,
this land is my land. 



Monday, August 26, 2013

Moving Up, Down and On

Monday, August 19, 2013
This headline appeared in the Sunday real estate section: "Costly Rents Push Brooklynites to Queens." For those of us raised in Brooklyn at any time up until the Clinton Administration, this headline had to be taken as a joke. Many of us moved, or were moved by our families, to Queens or beyond as a manifestation of upward mobility, often in combination with "white flight." While it would be rash to say that money was no object, our moves invariably involved an increase in rent. Note that few, if any, of the families that I knew of were homeowners, and the new residence was also likely to be a rented apartment. In many cases, this move upward also provided a real bedroom for the parents, freed from the convertible sofa in the living room. This had to be as valuable as being located in a supposedly safe neighborhood. Another vital difference (as confirmed by Arthur Dobrin moments ago) was elevators. There were no elevators in Brooklyn; there were elevators in Queens. It all cost more, no doubt, but there was an inexorable tide rolling east out of Brooklyn. And now again, but this time as farce.

As I passed the Chinese funeral homes at the foot of Mulberry Street, I saw this impressive display.

I wasn’t able to find out who evoked these lavish tributes, because my Chinese vocabulary lessons are only up to "noodles."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013
I was fooled this morning as I approached the courthouse. Demonstrators rallied at the foot of the steps while a group of more respectable types stood higher up, apparently holding a press conference. Even though the signs held by the demonstrators demanded justice for Mechad and vengeance on Jolene, names unfamiliar to me, I thought that I had simply missed a crime/atrocity/controversy not yet given exposure in the New York Times. As I got closer, I expected to see Christine Quinn or Al Sharpton facing the cameras. Within a couple of yards from the group, I realized that this was show biz, not the freedom of assembly that I was observing. Law & Order tricked me by the absence of the trailers, gurneys, vans, dollys, and clipboards that proliferate at the typical recording site. Somehow, they managed to keep all of this production hardware out of sight, while seemingly conducting the ordinary business of criminal justice amid public uproar. As usual, I walked very slowly with my silver-crowned head held high as I went up the courthouse steps, just yards from the focus of the pretend-action. However, no one stopped me and I did not have to reach for the résumés and head shots that I keep handy in my briefcase.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Last night, I went to the Mets game with Gil Glotzer, attorney to the stars. As usual, we sat in our regular seats, not only far above Cayuga’s waters, but far above home plate giving us an expansive view of the entire field. In the middle of the game, in which virtue triumphed, Ezra, my personal Mets ticket sales representative, came to visit us. He chatted a bit and he offered us an immediate seat upgrade for the rest of the game. We moved two tiers lower and at least $50 higher into slightly cushioned seats for the next hour or so. But, that’s not the most important news about attending sports events today.

The National Football League has introduced a draconian policy on what fans may bring into a stadium. Quoth the New York Times: "Shoulder bags, backpacks, briefcases, fanny packs, camera and binocular cases and even diaper bags are now forbidden. Coolers, thermoses and seat cushions with zippers are also banned." Small purses and handbags; small, clear plastic or vinyl bags; and one-gallon plastic freezer bags are permitted, as are gloves, blankets and hats, presumably including Green Bay Packer cheeseheads. Seizing opportunity by the wallet, the NFL has produced a line of clear plastic bags, branded by team, that, mirabile dictu, meets the new specifications. This is, of course, appalling. Except for bulky coolers that inconvenience other fans and deprive the billionaire owners of revenue, and diaper bags because attendance at professional football games should be limited to the toilet-trained, all the other items (Camera cases! Fanny packs!) are what normal people might carry with them when they leave the house, no less go to a football game.

I have not gone to a professional football game since 2005 and, given current ticket prices to NY Giant games and my bad choice of friends, I am unlikely to attend another in this century no matter how I am equipped. However, the NY Yankees have already imposed their own version of this dopey policy since opening their new stadium. "Each Guest is welcome to bring one bag into Yankee Stadium . . . . Briefcases, coolers and other hard-sided bags or containers are not permitted" (emphasis added).  My only visit to the new Yankee Stadium, at the invitation of nephew David P., a rabid Yankee fan, after I had subjected him to a couple of Mets games, was a sold-out weeknight game against the Boston Red Sox. Naturally, I came right from work for the 7 o’clock start. Naturally, the security guy banned my entry carrying my briefcase, although it went perfectly well with my navy blue suit and fashionable tie. The Yankees did not, and still do not, provide temporary housing for such contraband. All that a sucker can do is walk back under the el, opposite the old Yankee Stadium, and check your bag at the bowling alley on River Avenue for $5. That, of course, was an unthinkable alternative for me, so I asked for a supervisor. I told this protector of the Steinbrenner legacy that I came directly from court, showed him my photo ID announcing me as a Court Attorney, and correctly claimed that my briefcase contained "important papers" (important to me at least). With that, the supervisor swung open a side gate and I entered, briefcase in hand. Unfortunately, the Yankees won.

By contrast, while the Mets prohibit a large variety of items, such as glass bottles and metal cans, they allow hand-carried items no larger than 16"x16"x8" that are searched on the way in. Let’s go, Mets!

Thursday, August 22, 2013
Joseph Berger, superb reporter and wonderful human being, wrote an article today that may send you to the dentist to repair the damage caused by gnashing your teeth as you read it. It describes a profound threat to the concept of Jews living in two civilizations, a tenet of Reconstructionism, that obscure branch of Judaism that I subscribe to. I’ll only note my skepticism at the 30% population figure quoted from a survey.  After reading this article, I don’t even want to admit that some of my best friends are Jewish.

We had dim sum à la teen with Eddie and Nathan Silverberg, approaching their 16th birthday and a return to sophomore year in high school, on the menu. We enjoyed the hustle bustle of Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, along with many of the countless little things on plates, usually 3 or 4 pieces at a time. The boys were not allowed to ask, "What is that?" as an exercise in trust in Papa Jon and Grandpa Alan. There were only 1 ½ lapses, but we suspended punishment and permitted them to continue to inhale the dims and the sums. It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying, including an extra-large portion of beef chow fun from the menu, but the total bill, before tip, did not break $50.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Play It Again, Sam

Monday, August 12, 2013
One more Chinese text message came in this weekend and another this afternoon, to which I replied "Wrong number" each time. I’m now wondering if this isn’t accidental, but rather a recognition of my evermore increasingly important role in the Chinese culinary scene. These messages, although nominally about purchasing my shopping cart, may really be attempts to express affection and admiration. While I can speak two or three Chinese phrases, I can only read one word which seriously cuts down on my communication skills. I hope I’m not missing too much.

This afternoon, waiting in the checkout line at Costco (I took the afternoon off to run errands, skipping lunch entirely), I looked at the young thin man in hospital scrubs, wearing a yarmulke (skullcap), standing next to me. He looked familiar and I said so. He thought so, too. I didn’t imagine that he was a neighbor, although our building has over 400 apartments, because we were in Hackensack, New Jersey, far from home (don’t ask). He wasn’t a co-worker, since he was a doctor not a lawyer, and I didn’t recognize him from probing my kishkes, at least not while I was conscious. So, we turned to Jewish geography, the search for person, place or thing that connects us. I pulled out my strongest card, my observant Jewish relatives in Englewood, New Jersey, who are well-placed and well-known in the community. When he didn’t recognize any of their names, I turned to his practice area and location. It seems that he is a gynecologist in Hoboken, New Jersey, an improbable point of intersection for me. With that, I wished him a slightly-early Happy New Year, and, having been defeated in this game of Jewish geography, I headed back across the Hudson River.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Many non-lawyers among you may have limited contact with the legal profession, only resorting to lawyers for handling real estate transactions or the writing or processing of wills. You may, therefore, regard our work as somewhat dull and unimaginative. However, sometimes a little light shines in. For instance, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering an appeal from New York State’s highest court on the seemingly banal issue of sales tax in the Matter of 677 New Loudon v State of New York Tax Appeals Tribunal. Actually, free speech and artistic expression underlie this dispute about the collection of sales tax at a club that features nude or semi-nude pole dancing. New York law exempts "dramatic or musical arts performances," such as ballet, from sales tax collection. On a 4-3 vote, the New York court found that the club failed "to prove that the fees constituted admission charges for performances that were dance routines qualifying as choreographed performances." I found the dissent, by one of the court’s more conservative members, to be more eloquent. "The people who paid these admission charges paid to see women dancing. It does not matter if the dance was artistic or crude, boring or erotic. Under New York's Tax Law, a dance is a dance." You be the judge!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
It’s a bright day with mild temperatures in the 70s and my pleasure was increased by the discovery of a brand new joint. Hanoi Sandwich, 224A Canal Street, occupies a tiny sliver of space, 6' wide by about 18' deep. It features banh mi, the representative Vietnamese baguette sandwich. I choose Bangkok lemon chicken ($5.95), one of six alternatives. It contained shredded carrots, cucumber spears, hot pepper slices, lettuce and cilantro with tender chunks of white meat chicken in a mild lemony sauce. The warm, fresh baguette was a foot long, making the whole thing a pretty good deal.

The space was so tiny, however, that eating inside was impossible. So, Hanoi has lined up 8 metal chairs and two small low tables outside on the sidewalk along its long wall for urban al fresco dining. I’m skeptical about the legality of this arrangement with the prospects of accidents on this narrow sidewalk at a busy intersection. But, for now, I enjoyed the very good sandwich on this lovely day.

Thursday, August 15, 2013
Today is Noam’s birthday. Soon, he’ll be driving.

Chinatown fruit deal of the week: Pluots, 3 for $1. Pluots are apricot/plum hybrids, the size of large plums. They have been particularly delicious and a steal at this price; $3.95 a pound or more uptown.  I hope you can get down to the southeast corner of Canal Street and Mulberry Street before they run out. 

Looking out for the little guy: "Cisco Plans to Cut 4,000 Jobs, as It Posts Profit Gain" 

Friday, August 16, 2013
When the skateboarders can be herded out of the way, the plaza opposite the courthouse is often occupied by crews filming a cops and robbers show or a TV commercial, political or union demonstrators, or flea market vendors. This morning, as I passed by, I saw a dozen or more blue canvas-topped stalls being erected there. So, at lunchtime, I went across to see what was going on. Now, each stall contained colorful posters, decorations and tchotchkes (the Internet-approved spelling) from countries around the world. Center, a performance space was set up and a group of young women were apparently doing a native Bronx dance. I didn’t see any free food, so I quested knowledge instead, and I found that the event was part of the 2013 International Youth Fellowship (IYF) World Camp. IYF describes itself as "a global Christian non-profit organization . . . [aiming] to help you discover the power of your heart." The founder of its parent organization is Pastor Ock Soo Park, which seems to translate as "what do you mean cult?" I soon wandered off, because the power of my stomach proved stronger than the power of my heart.

Last night, a debate was held among the Democratic primary candidates for the office of Public Advocate. It was televised locally on NY1, primarily viewed for reliable traffic and weather reports. The office of Public Advocate is almost completely opaque to most New Yorkers, as well as current and past occupants. It requires the expertise of Sid Davidoff to make any sense of it, which no one is demanding. The candidates present were Daniel L. Squadron, Catherine Guerriero, Reshma M. Saujani, Letitia James and Sidique A. Wai. Since Squadron is Jewish and James is African-American, the question may fairly be raised in this election, "Where are the Americans?" Why can’t New York City have a Saxby Chambliss, Haley Barbour, Newt Gingrich or Trent Lott, rich with consonants and not ending in a vowel? Might Sarah Palin be willing to move to Central Park West?

Major league baseball announced yesterday that it is introducing instant replay with challenges next season. Now, only replays of questionable home runs are reviewed by the umpires on their own initiative. In the future, a wide array of decisions will be subject to challenge by a team’s manager (baseball has managers in charge, other sports have coaches), and then reviewed by an umpiring crew in New York watching video, not those on the field. The National Hockey League has a similar arrangement without the coach’s intervention. The New York Times has a concise summary of video replay in sports:

I regret baseball’s move, as I did the predecessors in other sports that I follow. This is a futile attempt to bring certainty into the existential chaos of life, no less sports. Making bad decisions is inherent to the human condition from Adam and Eve forward. The challenge for humankind is not necessarily to avoid mistakes, if only because life comes at us fast and furious, but to deal with them.

In our early days of television sports viewing, the results of the bang-bang action of a play at home plate or a pass into the end zone could be cursed, if it benefitted the bad guys, or celebrated, if virtue triumphed. Our insistence from our sofa, or even a seat in the stands, that the officials got it wrong was fruitless, based only on imagination. Then, technology introduced slow-motion replay, often from many angles, and, at first, we knew better than those on the field what really happened. The National Football League made it part of the sport as early as 1986, and the search for truth moved from the field of play to hooded viewing stations on the sidelines. But life isn’t like that. We can’t step aside and review from many angles and at varying speeds the steps taken to arrive at the current situation. The choice of a friend, lover, residence, job, restaurant may be taken with care, but once made must be endured. Often, there is little or no time to deliberate, but we must choose a response to an insult, a highway exit, paper or plastic. There is no instant replay, no do-overs. Why should the success of a highly-paid athlete be somewhat removed from the vagaries of human decision making while the rest of us must play the hands we are dealt?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Language Arts

Monday, August 5, 2013
Over the many years, I’ve studied Hebrew, French, Latin, and Italian in one venue or another with consistently poor results. However, when I took German in college, I got straight A’s, somewhat aided by the Yiddish that I heard around me as I grew up. But, I think that anyone who ever saw a World War II movie, regardless of foreign language competency, would have reacted with the start as I did when scanning the death notices in the Sunday newspaper. Admittedly, as a byproduct of aging, I pay much more attention to obituaries and death notices than I ever did, doing the quick math between my age and the deceased’s. In any case, the more than 12 inches devoted to memorializing one 87-year old man was hard to ignore. (A shorter version appeared in Monday’s Times.) 

George J. Hauptfuhrer, Jr., of Vero Beach, Florida died on August 2nd. He led a distinguished life as a college athlete, Navy officer, attorney, and leader of many charitable and philanthropic organizations. But, Hauptfuhrer? He lived most of his life in Philadelphia where he was a partner in a major law firm for decades. I don’t want to be at all disrespectful, but I can only imagine the reaction to hearing his name called out loud in a crowd. Many members of my congregation would head for the door, while, unfortunately some folks might throw their shoulders back and hold their heads higher.

I’ve avoided making fun of people’s names or translations on Chinese menus until now. My last name is so often mangled, that I try to learn and repeat a new name accurately. But, Hauptfuhrer? From what I read, he was a wonderful man, and he probably put up with a lot of cheap humor over the years. I hope that he rests in peace now, even if I would have changed seats if I found myself close to him.

Even though I have owned a smartyphone for over a year, I am not a fan of texting. It seems to presuppose that you have nothing to do but stare at your phone, waiting for a message, maybe any message from anyone. However, this morning I found a need to text because I learned that a dear person was in the hospital, pretty banged up, limited in range of motion, but his thumbs still free. Other folks were also sending me messages once I announced that I would be driving to the hospital right after work. So I was not entirely surprised to get the following text: "hello, can I take your shopping cart if it is still available" I thought that V.T. or K.K., with whom I had already communicated this morning about our incapacitated friend, needed a favor. I responded, "When and where?" as an indirect means to find out exactly who sent this message. The rapid response was "This afternoon like 6pm or 6:30pm in flushing [Queens]." OK. V.T. was already dealing with her own brother’s confinement in a hospital and he lived in Queens; she probably needed to schlep something for him. Since I planned to be visiting our hospitalized friend at that time, I said, "Ask Mayris." Now it got interesting. Right away, I got a burst of Chinese and a parallel message, "What’s that?"  I brilliantly countered, "Wrong number?" Immediately, my correspondent ended our dialogue with, "What are you mean Mayris?" which is a question that ranks up there with Freud asking, "What do women want?"

Is it possible that making bossa nova into one word and changing the first O to an A, spelled doom for Bassanova Ramen, 79 Mott Street, which I visited last week, on its second day of operations. When I walked by today to inspect the fruit stalls at Canal Street & Mulberry Street, southeast corner (Best Bet - champagne mangos 2 for $1), I saw that the joint was closed. No little sign proclaimed its fate. I’ll keep an eye out and keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013
I wound up giving my extra ticket to the Mets game tonight to a man standing outside the stadium wearing a Staten Island Yankees hat, on the condition that he wear it backwards, a pose that I generally find unappealing. Nevertheless, I sat through a long, somewhat tedious, game, even though I kept telling myself, "10 more minutes," "end of this inning," and "at 9:30." My indecision paid off in the end, as the Mets regained the lead in the 8th inning and held on. My ample lunch with Marty the Super Clerk at Kitchenette, 156 Chambers Street, sustained me throughout the evening. While we were too early to enjoy it, Kitchenette has a Cupcake Tea for Two, weekdays 3 to 5, including sandwiches, scones and cupcakes, $35 for two people. It seems a little pricey, but Kitchenette’s baked goods are especially good, rumor has it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Happy Birthday to Prof. David Lee McMullen, historian at the University of South Florida, located in St. Petersburg, Florida, which, despite its name, is nearer to the Florida-Georgia border than to Miami, if you drive, almost exactly the same distance if you fly a crow.

Bassanova Ramen was open today, but I did not inquire whether it intends to remain open for more than a day or two at a time. If it stays in operation, I will likely return in cold weather when its hearty brews will be most comforting.

Feeling the need for a treat, I went to Mottzar Kitchen, 70 Mott Street (April 18, 2012), for Peking duck, a dish given a prominent position on its menu. I found that it warranted the attention when I was served a large half of a duck ($20.95) or a half of a large duck, thoroughly roasted with crispy skin. The server (not in chef’s whites and toqueless unlike what you experience in Beijing) carefully schmeared some tasty hoisin sauce on a spongy 3 1/2" disk, then placed a slice of skin, slivers of scallion and cucumber on the dough before folding. Were he using 9" rice pancakes, he would have rolled not folded and had a heftier handful. That’s not a complaint mind you, merely an observation.

I was worried when my server swept away the duck’s carcass, which had given up very little flesh to the six buns we created. Looking nervously around for a serving of duck carcass to total strangers, I relaxed when my server and my duck returned to my table, chopped into handy chunks. And it was by hand that I started pushing the pieces of delicious duck meat, with little fat to be removed, into my mouth. In all, a superb meal, even if I had to wash my hands twice before setting fingers to this keyboard.

Thursday, August 8, 2013
I used to eat cold sesame noodles as frequently as I now eat scallion pancakes, but I’ve skipped that dish for some time. Since it is still summer, although with mild temperatures today, I decided that a cold dish would fit the bill. I wasn’t even sure where I could find a good version of this classic. The only time that I can recall ordering it in Chinatown in recent years, I was thoroughly disappointed at Wo Hop City, 15 Mott Street (street level), not to be confused with Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street (downstairs), where I ate two mouthfuls and sent it back without paying, a singular experience. Wo Hop, in fact, was packed with European tourists so I walked on by.Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street, did not list it on its menu, usually a source of excellent food. So, I went into Joe’s Ginger, 25 Pell Street, known for its soup dumplings and scallion pancakes when I espied cold noodles with sesame sauce ($4.65) on the menu in its window. It was very good, although the medium-sized portion left me room mentally and physically for another dish, but, as always, self-control won out.

Friday, August 9, 2013
It's been raining on and off since yesterday afternoon, usually in strong bursts.  This morning a TV crew were undeterred as they worked on the plaza opposite the courthouse (once occupied by J.C. Penney).  The show being recorded is called "Unforgettable," which is not a tribute to Natalie Cole.  It deals with a female police detective who has hyperthymesia, a rare medical condition that allows her to remember everything visually.  I don't know if there's a name for it, but America's Favorite Epidemiologist has a condition that seems to allow her to remember only what I want her to forget.
Mid-morning, I received another text message on my smartyphone, all in Chinese this time. When I responded "Wrong number," I received a polite English-language apology. Next time, I must remember to ask them what is their favorite restaurant.

I may not need their advice because I had a great meal today at Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street, which I skipped yesterday.  Knowing that chicken is on the dinner menu tonight at Palazzo di Gotthelf, I ordered beef with scallions ($5.95) off the lunch menu.  This brought me white rice and a bowl of hot and sour soup, which was exceptional except somewhat unnecessary on this hot and sticky day.  The beef was excellent, the portion approaching full size.  With the scallion pancake (nobody does it better) ($2.25) that I started with, I had a lot of wonderful food at a very reasonable cost.   

Friday, August 2, 2013

Heroic Tale

Monday, July 29, 2013
Yesterday, I read through the society pages hastily in order to go out for a stroll before our dinner date with Jill & Steve. We had reservations at Trattoria L’incontro, 21-76 31st Street, Astoria, one of the city’s best Italian restaurants, located in an outer borough, as is Roberto’s Restaurant, 603 Crescent Avenue, the Bronx.

As I turned the corner north on Columbus Avenue at 72nd Street I saw the large sign A.G. Kitchen, which I found breathtaking and inspirational. A.G. Kitchen is at 269 Columbus Avenue. What I could not tell until I crossed over was the nature of the food. Looking at the menu I see that it is pan Latino, featuring Cuban, Mexican, and Spanish dishes while touting its hamburgers. You might have known that they weren’t using my initials since the menu does not have salmon croquettes, scallion pancakes, lox & bagels, Singapore chow fun or ice cream. They claim that a guy named Andy Garcia is in charge. Still, I’ll give it a try.

There is a scandal in the world of rhythmic gymnastics. The New York Times recently reported that some 60 of the potential judges for the sport, which involves women swirling clubs, hoops, balls, ribbons and ropes, were caught cheating during last year’s elite-level exams to become judges during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Copying of answers from tests, including mistakes, reportedly took place during an exam in Bucharest, Romania, while hundreds of answers were changed on tests taken in Moscow and Spain. One test supposedly even had two different types of handwriting.

Let’s go back a moment. The Olympics has a contest which involves women swirling clubs, hoops, balls, ribbons and ropes? That’s not a sport. That goes with figure skating, synchronized swimming and almost all those activities where undersized adolescents in leotards jump and spin and tumble all over a gym. What amuses me is that these activities or displays (but not sports) always produce results like 8.23, giving an illusion of mathematical precision to what is ultimately an aesthetic appreciation to what you observe.

Sport requires a person, group or thing doing it more times (sometimes less as in golf), further (or higher) or in less time than the other persons, groups or things. More runners around the bases, faster around the track, longer jump, more pucks in the goal, knocking down more pins. That’s sport; that’s competition. I grant that ice skaters, no less than ballet dancers, train vigorously, practice diligently and are driven by a desire to excel. But, if they want an Olympic gold medal, I think they should play volleyball in bikinis. To avoid any misunderstanding, I have no idea what those women wear when they swirl clubs, hoops, balls, ribbons and ropes, but it’s not enough or too little to satisfy me.

After seeing this headline this morning "Facing a Recall After Backing Stronger Gun Laws," I sent $25 to the campaign of John Morse, a former police chief and president of the Colorado State Senate.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Today and tomorrow, New York administers its bar exam. While there are five test sites, the Javits Center in Manhattan attracts the most applicants, about 5,600 of the 12,250 registered statewide. Today’s New York Law Journal says that New York Law School (not to be confused, God forbid, with New York University Law School) will hand out box lunches to its estimated 250 test-takers. Since the Javits Center is fronted by the West Side Highway and surrounded by parking lots, getting a good lunch on these critical days is not an easy matter. I recall when I took the exam exactly 12 years ago. During the 90-minute lunch break, a lot of manic children were huddled in the shade of the large building, seeking sustenance from cigarettes and the woeful cries of their peers.

I had given up smoking decades earlier, but I still was living to eat. So, I walked the two long crosstown blocks from 11th Avenue, the front door of the Javits Center, to Manganero’s Hero Boy, on 9th Avenue, between 37th Street and 38th Street, "Originators of the 6-Foot Hero," as it says over the door. In all modesty, I was not seeking to consume six feet of hero sandwich, but I would have if necessary to escape the self-centered mewlings of some fellow test-takers. Instead, I enjoyed a meatball parmigiana hero (currently $8.50) with a Diet Pepsi. Causality, as I am often instructed by America’s Favorite Epidemiologist, may be an elusive matter, but I passed the bar exam going away with a smile on my face.

It has been a long time since I found a new restaurant (in the United States of America), but today I found one so new that it only opened yesterday. Bassanova Ramen, 76 Mott Street, replaced Pho Cho Ben Thanh, a short-lived Vietnamese restaurant. The space sat empty longer than Pho Cho occupied it, until yesterday. The restaurant is 8 steps below street level, with glass covering the entire front. In the back is an open kitchen with six chairs at a serving bar facing it. Each wall perpendicular to the kitchen has a long bench built in, with five two-top tables. In the middle of the room is one large table, set for two on each end and three along the side, although probably four more people could fit in if needed. Almost every surface is white, and the chairs have a matte aluminum finish, giving a very light, open feel to the interior.

I have no idea where the Bassanova comes from (no, that’s not a straight line), but ramen is all the restaurant serves right now. The photocopied piece of paper that serves as a menu lists six ramens to eat, ranging from $13 to $15, extra noodles for $2 and "Drink." Three of the ramen dishes are served hot and three cold, that is when, unlike today, they had been cooked long enough in advance to get cold. So, I chose Tondaku Green Curry Ramen ($15), containing grilled chicken, shrimp, zucchini, okra, paprika and coriander, and noodles, of course. I never saw the chicken, but the brew was extremely tasty, spicy, hearty, thick with ingredients. However, the medium-sized portion was not worth $15, not in Chinatown that is. Maybe if they threw in a bagel, or mango pudding. Playing Billie Holiday recordings during my lunch was worth a bit extra.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
My lifelong friend Arthur Dobrin has published another book dealing with ethics and conscience. It is available at Amazon and electronically. Buy it to challenge yourself with choices that you’d rather not make.

Thursday, August 1, 2013
The plaza opposite the courthouse was covered with tents, tables and electrical equipment as I approached it this morning. It looked much like a street fair condensed in a smaller space. As I got closer, I saw many banners reading J.C. Penney, or jcp (stylized in a lower-case Arial font), its attempt to follow Kentucky Fried Chicken by distancing itself from its origins. I imagined that at lunchtime, when I returned to the plaza, I’d be showered by gifts and mementos, with or without a jcp logo. Instead, only heavy rain showered down at lunchtime, which kept me from wandering far from the courthouse, but not from heading over to the dampened festivities. Well, the festivities were over; everything was being packed up. What I had missed was the shooting of a back-to-school commercial, not some generous distribution of goods and merchandise intended to endear jcp to the buying public. However, later I read that the J.C. Penney-Martha Stewart-Macy’s trial was hearing final arguments today in my very courthouse. Was this a coincidence? Was justice going to be tempered (or tampered with) by the (staged) sight of bright-eyed kiddies romping in their J.C. Penney outfits on the way to second grade? You couldn’t try that with Judge Judy.

Friday, August 2, 2013
In the following video on insider trading charges against Steven "SAC" Cohen's empire, the reporter says, "You can't throw a company in jail."
Well, why not?  Corporations are people, too, my friend.  The United States Supreme Court has taken pains to have corporations heard loud and clear in the public arena, just like plain folks.  It doesn't matter that their voices are as loud as their pockets are deep.  So, let's give our corporations the chance to be treated like the rest of us when we are naughty.  Equality.  Isn't that what America is all about?