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: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/16/sports/lets-go-to-the-tape-how-other-sports-handle-video-review.html?ref=baseball
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?