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?

1 comment:

  1. Great post! But there is no comparison between Roberto's and Trattoria L’incontro. Roberto's is the overwhelming winner in that competition!