Friday, August 30, 2013

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. 



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