Saturday, November 30, 2013


Monday, November 25, 2013
I realize how boring it must be to read about my troubles with my teeth, an ongoing theme of this chronicle.  However, imagine finding a molar as you chew your toasted bialy, an episode that I endured yesterday.  Since it was one of those man-made molars that have been populating my mouth for about 10 months now, I wasn’t too concerned since I managed to keep from swallowing it.  I am scheduled to have a permanently altered mouth by the end of next month and I hope that I can resume gnawing and chewing with my normal animal intensity without risk to my familiar grimace.

Defying the odds, or convention, or sanity, I decided not to suspend my duck hunt just because Thanksgiving looms large.  I must admit, though, that I have never seen turkey on any Chinatown menu.  I went into 5 restaurants on Mott Street asking for Peking duck. One had roast duck only, and the four others only served a whole duck at a time, a little self-indulgent even for me.  So, I went into Grand Harmony Restaurant, 98 Mott Street (April 21, 2010), for dim sum instead.  The big bright place was busy; almost every large round table was at least partially occupied.  I had shu mai, shrimp dumplings, fish balls and a pork-shrimp bun that looked like a small knish, not a miniature knish mind you, that had an elusive sweet spice undertone.  In the absence of a large molar, I chewed vigorously with the remaining choppers.  Fortunately, all the items were soft and succumbed to fervent munching.  All the food was very good and served hot, sometimes not the case for dim sum when the wagons have been around the block a few times.  The total came to $13.60 including tax, although I’m unable to verify that figure by conventional arithmatic.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 
Last week, I noted that October 24, 2013 recorded the most subway rides since the transit authority started counting, about 30 years ago.  I think that this week and the weeks to come will be distinguished by even more crowded conditions, not necessarily bigger crowds.  As I observed yesterday, on the way home, in addition to the regular commuters, that is, working folk, students and those looking for a place to stay warm, the train was full of holiday shoppers, both domestic and foreign, carrying overstuffed shopping bags. It was easy to recognize those fresh from JFK Airport, they had Century 21 shopping bags.  While the typical foreigner seems skinnier than the typical American, she takes up more space with her purchases surrounding her.  I’m delighted by the resulting infusion of cash into our local economy, but I’d like to see swollen shopping bags along with wheeled luggage routed separately during weekday rush hours.  I believe that you could tell a Japanese or German tourist, laden with Ralph Lauren merchandise, that she must wait for a special train without getting any backtalk.  I’d like to extend this program to open strollers, but you know that would hit entirely too close to home and cause an uproar.     

If I can’t get a one-person Peking duck today, I’ll try and find a new restaurant, and I thought I did.  When I saw a listing for Yi Ding Hao Dumpling, 143 Division Street, I thought that it was the perfect choice, a new joint in a propitious location.  143 Division Street is just around the corner from 13 Essex Street, where my mother was born 104 years ago today.  That means that my grandmother Esther Malka Goldenberg gave birth right there, in a building with a shared bathroom in the hallway, probably assisted only by a midwife, but not a doctor.  For sure, she did not have the attention of a hairdresser or manicurist for a long time before or after the birth of her third child, the first born in the United States.  Naturally, I had to visit the site.  

First, though, I found that Yi Ding Hao was gone without a trace.  Maybe that’s what it means in Chinese.  So, I continued to 13 Essex Street which used to house at street level a Judaica store, religious objects and Jewish-themed items, and Miller’s Cheese, a long-time producer of Kosher cheese.  Today, I found Café Grumpy, which the New York Times recently described as “a leading practitioner of pour-over coffee, the latest manifestation of coffee zealotry.”  It was staffed by two lovely young women, one with a British accent.  Besides their rarefied coffee drinks, they only served baked goods, which I would have welcomed after lunch, but not instead of.  I explained the historic significance of the building and the date to the young women and left to resume my duck hunt.  

I headed for Grand Sichuan Restaurant, 125 Canal Street, where I had enjoyed tea smoked duck (October 18, 2010) and imagined that Peking duck could not be far behind. Alas, Grand Sichuan was gone, the site turned into a construction zone, purpose unknown.  Which is why I ate Southern fried chicken for lunch at Popeye’s, right next door, sharing the same address, 125 Canal Street.   

It was just announced that Chico Hamilton, a noted jazz drummer, died yesterday. Hamilton was a leading figure in the West Coast jazz movement of the 1950s and 1960s, a softer, more melodic style than the post-war bebop of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.  As an example, Hamilton often used mallets instead of drum sticks on many of his most successful recordings, and his quintet included a cellist.  I remember having one conversation with Hamilton, between his sets at Birdland, while I was still a college student.  I doubt that I was doing little more than making adoring noises, which he tolerated gracefully, when Miles Davis walked up to us.  Well, not really up to both of us, but to Hamilton, a fellow jazz luminary.  Miles, who showed little affection for white folks generally, and who frequently played with his back to audiences at major live engagements, dismissed me with a grunt.  If I could have bottled that grunt, I would have. How special to be recognized, even in that fashion, by that genius.  I’m sure that I own more recordings (LPs and CDs) by Miles Davis than any other musician, and would likely keep Kind of Blue as my last possession.  Sorry, but it was better then. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013
It’s a rainy, schmutzy day, considerably brightened by the presence of America’s Loveliest Nephrologist, visiting for Thanksgiving.  For us, it will certainly be Black Friday in two days because she leaves then for a brief Caribbean holiday.  

It continued to be rainy and chilly at lunchtime as I went looking for a plumbing part, which sent me farther afield than I would have normally gone under these conditions.  When my identification of the desired part as American Standard 6.0 LPF 1.6GPS proved to be insufficiently precise to the otherwise friendly hardware store clerk, I left empty handed, needing to be emotionally cooled and physically warmed.  Fortunately, Xi'An Famous Foods, 67 Bayard Street, was up to the task.  I ordered Spicy & Tingly beef noodles in soup ($7.50) and it came quickly, hot and spicy. However, the tingle factor seemed notably diminished over the last occasion when I had Spicy & Tingly beef noodles (without soup) here (July 29, 2011).  At that time, my lips moved independently of my face for at least 15 minutes after I left the joint. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013
As customary, we host Thanksgiving dinner for relatives and friends.  While we had only about a dozen adult guests, the irrepressible energy of Boaz and Noam filled any unoccupied space.  Since this is also the second night of Hanukkah, everyone 40 years old and younger received more than turkey, stuffing and sweet potatoes.  Those of us over 40 were, however, more than delighted to have, as a special treat, potato latkes prepared for the first time by my young bride.  Under these circumstances, a good time was had by all.

Friday, November 29, 2013    
This is a work day for the courts, but not for me.  While America’s Favorite Epidemiologist supplied massive energy and imagination to creating a festive and filling Thanksgiving dinner for our crowd, I was exhausted just watching.  So, I am on a one-day vacation.  There was very little turkey left over, which gives me some more incentive to go duck hunting next week.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Back Then

Monday, November 18, 2013
I’ve been yearning to go back to Paris for the 3 ½ years since we last visited.  So, I picked myself up and went to Paris Sandwich (a/k/a Paris Authentic Vietnamese Restaurant), 113 Mott Street, purveyor of Vietnamese banh mi and other dishes, a particularly neat and clean place with waiter service as well as a stand-up counter if you choose to have only a sandwich.  I ordered Spring Roll Vermicelli Noodle ($6.75), a generous bowl of vermicelli (angel hair rice noodles) topped with carrots, scallions, bean sprouts, cilantro, lettuce, chopped peanuts, and 1" pieces of spring roll, with a nice portion of lime chili dressing to pour over it all.  Very tasty and very filling.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Last night, Sonia Sotomayor spoke to a large crowd at City College, informally responding to questions about her background, education and values.  Not every judge delivers her ideas coherently without obvious reliance on catchphrases or clichés, but Justice Sotomayor not only spoke with easy grace, she showed a very human side.  Her career path may well serve as a model for many of the students present, foreign-born and/or from minority populations.  The opponents of affirmative action will dwell on the open door to Princeton she was given as a poor girl from the Hispanic community of the South Bronx.  Of course, few of them would have traded their childhood for hers, and, more arrogantly, they ignore her accomplishments at Princeton (summa cum laude), at Yale Law School (law review) and beyond.  Underlying their supposed principled opposition to the policies that helped her advance, I think they simply resent that she did not stay in her place, hemmed in by the limited role that ethnicity, class, economics and geography seemed to promise her.

Before Justice Sotomayor went on to speak, I did offer her a few encouraging words.

Eating Peking duck is inevitably messy.  Whether using a pancake or a bun to hold the duck (sometimes meat and skin separately), scallions, cucumber and hoisin sauce, your hands will get moist and slick.  A way to achieve some of the culinary satisfaction without the mess and at a much lower price is ordering duck chow fun ($6.75) at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street.  The portion, as with seemingly all their dishes, is large, the ratio of fat to meat is no worse than average for other duck dishes, the price is right and, unless your use of chopsticks is dangerously ineffective, your hands will not require an immediate scrubbing.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The reporters were gathering at the foot of the courthouse steps as I arrived this morning.  It seems Rupert Murdoch is coming to town to defend his wealth and pelf in his divorce action from his third wife.  Two matrimonial judges have their courtrooms on the same corridor as my office, so there’s a good chance Rupe and I might meet soon.  Actually, my chances of bonding are probably stronger with his ex-wife-to-be, Wendy Deng, born in China.  After all, considering the emotional turmoil she must be experiencing at the breakup of her 14-year marriage, she could probably use a good meal.

In fact, Stony Brook Steve was around to give Wendy additional support, but she did not avail herself of the opportunity to eat lunch with us, even though we two ordered enough food for three at Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street, scallion pancake, hot and sour soup, orange flavor chicken, shredded pork in Peking sauce and beef with scallions.  Had Wendy been along and split the bill with us, it would have cost a little over $8 each including tip.  No matter how parsimonious Rupert may prove to be in the divorce settlement, Wendy should be able to handle eight bucks.

Thursday, November 21, 2013
Another day in the dentist’s chair, pushing and pulling, putting and taking, in an effort to thwart nature’s plan for my mouth.  Staying away from work and the long subway ride to and fro the clinic gave me plenty of time to read the paper and learn that Thursday, October 24, 2013, just 4 weeks ago, set an all-time record for subway rides, 5,985,311.  Significantly, nothing special was going on that day; no Subway Series baseball game, no Thanksgiving Day/St. Patrick’s Day/Salute to Israel/Puerto Rican Day/Giants Super Bowl Victory parade, no Black Friday sales, no Simon & Garfunkel concert in Central Park.  It was just an ordinary workday with school in session, no religious holiday, and mild weather, a 54° high.  This has to be the subject of barroom bets in the future.

Friday, November 22, 2013
November 22, 1963 was also a Friday, and I vividly recall it today, although I can’t remember anything about November 21, 1963 or November 22, 2012, for that matter.  I was a teaching assistant in the Government Department at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.  I had a 2 o’clock section in Goldwin Smith Hall, a low, wide academic building on the eastern edge of the Arts Quad.  I entered the classroom on time.  Most of my freshmen students were already in the room, but few were seated.  Rather, they were standing by the window, gathered around a student holding a transistor radio.  That student, by the way, was Mark Green, later to run unsuccessfully for a New York congressional seat, the US Senate against Al D’Amato, and the mayoralty against Michael Bloomberg.  In between, he twice won election as New York City’s public advocate, a position that I think he handled very well, although no one is quite sure what its purpose is, and, incidently, the job Bill de Blasio held before his successful run for mayor.  I won’t pretend to remember the exact words uttered in that classroom, but someone said that the president was shot.  Dallas time is one hour earlier than anywhere in New York state.  It was just after 1 PM there.

I didn’t believe what I heard; five minutes before I had been in the Government Department’s office in a nearby building.  I left the classroom quickly and went down the hall to the offices of the English Department, where I picked up a telephone (I think I asked first) and called the Government Department, I guess I thought it more reliable under these circumstances than the English Department.  It was true.  Kennedy was shot dead.  Back to my classroom where the kids sat stonily silent.  At first, I urged them to get lost.  What could I say to this group of bright, predominantly middle class kids in their first college semester?  When they didn’t move, I blustered that, while I had not been drawn to revolutionary causes before this, in spite of my years at CCNY, I was prepared to do battle, real battle, with the reactionary forces that I assumed, with some hedging, were responsible for Kennedy’s assassination.

We left the classroom and I walked over to the Straight, the student union, where I encountered Bonnie Cohen, an undergraduate from Detroit, whom I pined for unavailingly, and Richard   Denenberg, then editor-in-chief of the Cornell Daily Sun.  We chatted and even laughed about some things, which drew some stares.  Eventually, I went back to my basement apartment on Harvard Place in Collegetown, where I lived at that time in a state of hostile co-existence with John Langley Stanley, later proven to be one of the dearest people that I have ever known.

I barely moved out of the apartment the entire weekend, although I went to a non-denominationalish service conducted by the Newman Club, the campus Catholic organization, early Friday evening I seem to recall.  John and I had no television set, so, while I would typically head to the Straight to watch football games on most Sunday afternoons, I could not muster the will to get dressed and go out for days.  In retrospect, I admit that it was quite remarkable, even foolish, that I did not see one minute of the weekend’s events, the shooting of Oswald, the Kennedy funeral procession, none of it.  I don’t think that I was in denial, so much as deflated.

Cornell Government Department graduate students typically had an easy load in those days, one or two seminars, and 3 teaching sessions in either introduction to American government or comparative government (then Britain, France, West Germany and the USSR).  In the week immediately following the assassination, I had to prepare a writing for Professor Andrew Hacker’s seminar in American political behavior.  The seminar was held at 8 A.M. on Tuesday mornings, where Hacker sat, framed by the open door to his office, at the head of several flights of stairs, puffing his Meerschaum pipe heartily, as John and I trudged up the stairs after walking about a mile on a cold Ithaca morning, with no possibility of campus parking even if we were to own a car, which we later did, but that’s another story.  Hacker, who cherished then, and probably still does, his reputation for blunt irascibility, was unmoved by the diversion caused by the assassination of an American president, and his view of my devotion to scholarship never progressed beyond that point when I failed to deliver.

Campus life eventually returned to normal, more or less, except for one of my fellow graduate students.  The Warren Commission report on the Kennedy assassination was released in late September 1964, and two months later 26 volumes of supporting documents were published.  Edward Jay Epstein took a complete blue-leather bound set (I don’t know how many the library might have had) to his library carrel, a desk with shelving in the stacks that I never bothered with, choosing instead the Government Department graduate student reading room, where reading was entirely replaced by conversation.  Epstein and I had become friendly, probably because he seemed to suffer from the same arrested social development as I did, although he was about half a dozen years older.  As a result, he frequently sought me out, blue volume in hand, to point out some discrepancy or illogic in the text.  I usually shooed him away, partly from lack of interest and partly from my attempt to concentrate on my upcoming comprehensive examinations.  My dismissive attitude didn’t seem to matter to Epstein, who became more and more immersed in those thousands of pages dealing with the fatal intersection of Kennedy, Oswald and Ruby.  As you probably know, Epstein produced the first credible critique of the Warren Commission, Inquest, and later many more works of important investigative reporting.  But, before that happened, one night at dinner in downtown Ithaca in the summer of 1965, my combined annoyance at Epstein’s hocking about the Warren Commission and his ineffective attempt at seducing the young woman at our table caused me to snarl, “Shut up, Epstein.  Don’t talk to me.”  And he never did again.

My formal studies of political science ended weeks later when I failed my comprehensive examinations for the second time.  Since then, I’ve remained interested in our government and politics as I passed through periods as an employee, a business owner, unemployment and a lawyer.  Adding those perspectives to what little I retained as a student of government, I believe that attempts to analyze or appraise Kennedy and his presidency in terms of his accomplishments are beside the point.  During those few years, many Americans felt different, an air of vigor (a popular New Frontier word) and optimism emanating from Washington in contrast to the seeming sobriety and paternalism of the Eisenhower years.  Having those feelings end so suddenly, in such an unlikely manner, has colored public perception of Kennedy ever since, and, for many people, substituted frustration and disenchantment for a concern for the common good.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Write Makes Right

Monday, November 11, 2013
Gretchen Morgenson is a very astute financial reporter for the New York Times.  She manages to extract an interesting story from the swirl of numbers that accompanies most business reporting.  Yesterday, she dealt with Twitter's highly-touted initial public offering.  For the first nine months of 2013, Twitter experienced a net loss of $134 million by generally accepted accounting standards.  Since such a performance might deter anxious investors, Twitter’s prospectus for its stock sale offered the alternative of a $44 million loss “through the eyes of management.”  Feel better?  Just like hearing from your mother, “You’re not fat, bubbele.  You just have big bones.”

Usually, I avoid dwelling on typographical errors or mistranslations, however, I had something to do with placing my young friend Joshua Greenberg on the program for next Sunday’s Global Day of Jewish Learning to speak about Bob Dylan as a modern Hebrew prophet, so the following excerpt from his biographical sketch in the program cannot go unnoticed: “An attorney and filmmaker, Joshua was also a founding member of the Tree of Lice Society at Cardozo School of Law, has been a recurring guest lecturer at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and was the producer of multiple award winning short films while at Columbia University.”  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 

I decided to give the ducks a rest, at least for a day or two, and pursue another fetish, scallion pancakes.  That meant Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street, best all-around scallion pancake ($2.25) and a beef with scallions lunch special ($5.95), including very good hot and sour soup and white rice.  There was plenty to eat, and I left full and warmed up against the harsh, cold wind that followed this morning’s brief snowfall. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The duck hunt is back on.  Chatham Sq Restaurant, 6 Chatham Square (March 9, 2010), is a triple threat joint at lunchtime.  It offers dim sum on rolling carts, lunch specials averaging $5.95, and its regular menu.  I ordered half a Peking duck ($16) and found a serious contender for top honors.  A waitress fixed six packages using puffy buns, with scallion threads, cucumber slivers and hoisin sauce.  Additionally, there was a leg and piece of wing on the side, but also the remains of the carcass chopped into 1" pieces.  A lot of food, in all.  The duck was slightly fatty, less so than most, but not as “clean” as New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe (November 8, 2013, September 19, 2013).  However, considering price and amount of food, Chatham Sq has to be regarded as a contender.

Just a note on pancakes vs. buns to hold the Peking duck concoction.  The larger diameter and thinness of the pancakes compared to the buns offer more room to pack in the ingredients.  The thick sponginess of the buns, on the other hand, fills you up as quickly.  So far, no one has offered a choice of wrapper. 

Franklin Street, 4:15 P.M.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Richard A. Posner, of the U.S. Court of Appeals, has just published Reflections on Judging, the latest in more than 30 books that he has written.  While Posner is viewed as a judicial conservative, according to several reviews (it’s hard to find time for books during hockey season), his strongest criticisms are reserved for the faux-serious reasoning of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  

One of Posner’s concerns seems to strike close to home, his objection to judges relying upon their law clerks for draft opinion writing.  After all, that’s what I do for a living.  However, I find it not too difficult to elude Posner’s scorn.  He is focussing on bright-eyed, just-out-of-law-school-with-high-honors, recently-pubescent law clerks, with very little in common with Grandpa Alan.  When he wrote that a clerk-written draft typically “lacks color, depth, and authenticity,” I knew that I was in the clear.

Friday, November 15, 2013

You can eat lunch in Golden Steamer, 143A Mott Street, but you have to be somewhat nimble.  Almost all the available space in this very busy small joint holds packages of sweet and savory buns for retail sale, mostly in the bao family, that is puffy white bread filled with stuff.  While the four brushed aluminum stools bolted to the floor sit opposite an 18" deep ledge, it is completely covered, up to two feet high, with packages of buns.  Eating in means sitting on one stool and using the next one or your lap as your table, which I somehow managed.  I bought three small baked roast pork buns ($1.25) and a jumbo bao ($1.50), a 5" inch round filled with meat, half a hard-boiled egg and some green vegetable.  The small amount of meat in the roast pork buns were overwhelmed by the bread wrapper, served at room temperature.  The jumbo bao had a much better balance of inside to outside and was served warm.  

Other reviewers favor Golden Steamer for its sweet buns, especially the pumpkin at this time of year.  

To end the week on an upbeat financial note, I’m happy to announce that the rental car agency that disappointed us mightily in Sicily (October 4, 2013) has now refunded the entire $445 advance payment, after disingenuously offering only $45 back, withholding $400 as a cancellation fee.  While I don’t discount the quality of our advocacy, I must admit to some surprise at winning an argument with a British firm for a transaction in Sicily when they already had all our money.  Fortunately, virtue wasn’t the only reward. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Teaching Old Ducks New Tricks

Monday, November 4, 2013
If our trip to the Balkans in June/July interested you, take a look at the 2014 version.
While next year's trip omits Bulgaria and Macedonia, it adds a four-day Aegean cruise with a visit to Turkey.  I commend the experience to you.  I approached our trip with little interest and less knowledge of Jewish life in the Balkans, or the region in general, and came away informed and enthused.

As you are probably well aware, language is important to me.  I use it almost every day.  Therefore, I was challenged by a couple of words in a US Second Circuit Court of Appeals opinion reported today in the New York Law Journal.  Defendant Jiau’s conviction on insider trading was upheld for a scheme where she received information from “tippers” inside publicly-traded companies and passed it on to “tippees” at hedge funds.  Tipper, in this case, is unnecessary since “tipster” would do fine.  Tippee is perfectly silly here, although found in dictionaries.  The word for a hedge fund manager who trades on inside information is “crook.”

I got some news from Boaz’s kindergarten class that I find intimidating.  First, however, let me note that each week parents and grandparents get a delightful, thoughtful report by e-mail of his class’s progress accompanied by photographs of the young scholars at work.  Each time I receive it, my reaction, which I am sure other grandparents share, is to reach for the checkbook to keep this endeavor going.  The latest report had a picture of the class’s “Ask the experts!” board, which listed the child(ren) skilled in certain vital subjects, such as, “Zipping” and “Reading tricky words.”  Although I was thrilled that Boaz appeared as an expert in all the reported categories, I was reminded how far I lagged behind him and my peers in my early days.

Boaz is rated as an expert in “Shoe tying,” while Grandpa Alan was unable to tie his shoes until the Sixth Grade, and those were the days before Velcro.  For decades, I relied on the excuse of  the disparity between my right-handed parents and brother and my left-handedness.  They always had it backwards.  So, until I engaged in independent study, I could not learn how to tie my shoes.  Now, of course, I recognize what a prodigy Boaz is, especially because only one other child appears as an expert in “Shoe tying,” but fails to qualify in “Putting on jackets.”  

Hoy Wong, 81 Mott Street, offers a Peking duck for $30.  By myself, I ordered half at $16.  It came with five puffy buns, scallion threads, but no cucumber slivers, and hoisin sauce.  The waiter did not demonstrate technique, which I prefer because they usually make the package too small.  The duck had some fat, which is more typical than not, although much of the skin was crispy.  There was just enough meat for the five buns plus one leg and a piece of wing on the side, evidently from the same duck.  There was no sign of the carcass, however.  It was a decent duck for the money.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Election day in New York with the race for mayor almost ignored because of the lack of competitiveness in the race.  The good news is that it’s a holiday for the public sector.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013
My biggest surprise in yesterday's election was the dramatic failure of the proposed amendment to raise the retirement age of  Supreme Court judges to 80 years old from 70 currently.  While there were many political reasons to oppose this (see, I thought that it would appeal to our aging population (present company included).   I also liked the idea of immediately increasing the number of sitting judges to relieve very busy calendars.  Of course, relieving the pressure to select new judges was the reason why many politicians opposed this measure (usually in private, but effectively), because it also relieved them of the opportunity to dole out rewards.

The Boy’s Club gathered for lunch at New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe, 50 Mott Street, sharing a couple of Peking ducks and other treats, shrimps with lobster sauce, beef with scallions and spicy eggplant.  I had enjoyed Peking duck here before (September 19, 2013) and thought it worth an encore.  It was as good or better this time, firming New Yeah’s position as number one duck in town.  They serve it with flat pancakes, 4 for half a duck ($22), 8 for a whole duck ($38), a generous amount of scallion threads and cucumber slivers, and hoisin sauce.  
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Today is a big CCNY day.  Lunch with the Feingold crowd and the alumni association dinner honoring Sid Davidoff, political savant and the youngest member of Nixon’s Enemies List (see's_Enemies_List or  While this is a very notable day, I will have to do without Chinese food.

In case you are concerned about the quality of contemporary legal reasoning, I offer this headline from today’s New York Law Journal: “Mother Can’t Share Estate of Kids She Killed, Judge Says.”

Friday, November 8, 2013
I think I went out of control today, having my third Peking duck in five days, this time at Fuleen Seafood Restaurant, 11 Division Street, one of Chinatown’s better restaurants.  I had half a duck ($19) and was treated generously.  Before the duck came, I had a (lukewarm) hot towel and a dish of salted peanuts that would have mated perfectly with a beer were I not planning to return to work.  The duck was accompanied by eight puffy buns, not pancakes, which were too many, outlasting the meat, but certain to fill you up.  The waitress was prepared to make all the packages until I stopped her after the first four.  The only scarcity was the absence of any cucumber slivers with the few threads of scallions.  The plate of duck also had a handful of Pringle-style potato chips, the uniform type.  When the food was gone, I got another (lukewarm) hot towel, orange slices and a fortune cookie.  Aside from the excess of buns, the duck also had too much fat which compromised the meal, and left New Yeah’s duck in first place.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Mazel Tov

Monday, October 28, 2013
We went to the wedding of Aunt Judi and Uncle Stu’s youngest son yesterday, and, while the food did not reach the heights of Aunt Judi’s personal efforts, it was quite good on the whole, most notably the hors d’oeuvres.  There was Peking duck, sushi, tacos, lamb carved from the bone, egg rolls, corned beef, pastrami, turkey, coconut fried fish, vegetable, chicken and beef dumplings, shish kebab, franks in blankets, chicken skewers with peanut sauce, quesadillas, rare grilled tuna, and a variety of salads for the V people.  Dinner was an afterthought.  Also, if you knew where to look, there were a couple of bottles of single malt whiskey around in addition to the ordinary bar offerings.  My companions, the two Drs. Webber, looked smashing and I got the nearest parking spot to the front door of the New York Academy of Medicine, a beautiful spot for such an event.  It is still a couple of hours before lunch today, and I’m uncertain whether I’m ready to eat again so soon.

My devotion to duty led me out the door at lunchtime and led me to discover Bobalife NYC, 11 Pell Street, a new beverage shop, which also offers a few food items.  I ordered crispy fried chicken ($3.50) and a green apple slush ($3 for a large sold at the price of a small).  The largish portion of lightly-coated, almost greaseless chicken was good and the slush wasn’t too sweet although quite fluorescent green.  The shop has only two tall, small round tables each with three rickety stools, or maybe the table was rickety.

There was no sign of 1901 when I passed Mosco Street today, the film makers having moved on.  However, in its “normal” state, Mosco Street doesn’t seem to have gotten past 1938, although Fried Dumpling, its only eating establishment, unnumbered in the middle of the short block, still sells 5 dumplings for $1 which is more like 1968.

Wednesday, October30, 2013
I made my third attempt to have lunch at Division 31 Restaurant today.  This time, three young women and one young man joined to (inadequately) explain why only hot pot was available in this otherwise well-furnished, newly-opened joint with a extensive printed menu of unserved food.  None of them was able to tell me when this condition would be corrected.

I had hot pot in China, so my lack of enthusiasm for it at Division 31 is not based on lack of experience.  I find three things wrong with hot pot, individual canisters of boiling broth into which you drop meat, seafood, vegetables and spices from an array in front of you.  Similar to fondue, but you don’t pull out the individual bits and pieces that you put in.  First – Hot pot is not meant to be a solitary activity.  It should be conducted in a group of jovial folk encouraging each other to toss completely unrecognizable ingredients into their respective pot, drawing mirth from their colleagues’ culinary efforts.  You just can’t have hot pot alone in silence.  Second – Why go out to eat when you have to do all the work yourself?  Since most of us lack household serving staff (Whither Downton Abbey?), a restaurant affords us the occasional opportunity to be indulged, to have at least some of our wishes attended to.  Third – Hot pot may produce novel, but not necessarily tasty, results.  Who knows what he is doing?  Even if all the ingredients were familiar to me, how many permutations and combinations would I have to go through in order to produce palatable results.  Think of a counter whereupon sits butter, sugar, flour, chocolate chips, maybe oats, maybe raisins, maybe coconut, maybe walnuts or pecans.  Even as the image of an excellent chocolate chip cookie begins to emerge from this tableau, how many of us know the proportions and sequences necessary to create one of these heavenly items?  So, your typical civilian hot potter will produce no more than a pile of hot, wet meat, seafood, vegetables and spices, even if lucky enough to avoid being scalded by spattered broth.

I retreated to Yung Sun Seafood Restaurant, 47 East Broadway, which was hardly busier than when I first visited on April 22, 2013.  The large, bright space was occupied by 12 round tables holding only one “Western” couple, a young Chinese woman more interested in her phone than her food, and four Chinese friends/relatives happily chattering away, although I really can’t distinguish happy Chinese chatter from ordinary Chinese chatter.

I ordered an oyster cake (75¢), a four-inch round, flat, fried disc, filled with minced vegetables, a sliver of oyster and two boiled peanuts.  Pretty good.  I also had fried fish filet in curry sauce over rice ($4.50).  The pungent sauce contained red and green peppers, yellow onion, scallion, and bamboo shoots with a large mound of white rice.  The pieces of fish were strangely spongy and textureless, causing me to check several times whether there was anything under the breaded coating.  I hope that the calorie count was equally vaporous.

Thursday, October 31, 2013
Yippee, hooray!  I’m going to my first Rangers game of the season tonight in the expensively-redecorated Madison Square Garden.  I’m especially delighted to have Moshe as my companion.  Since he was born and brought up in Israel, he never saw ice outside of a cocktail until he reached middle age.  Hockey, compared to football or baseball, is a simple game, and I am not likely to overwhelm him with pedantic details or arcane rules, a blessing for him, no doubt.  Let’s hope that the results of the game leave me feeling blessed.
Two things drew me to Noodle Village, 13 Mott Street, after ABC Chinese Restaurant, 34 Pell Street, would not sell me half a Peking duck.  Since they sell a whole duck for $32.95 and I usually enjoy their food, I thought that half would be a pretty good deal.  So, ABC must wait for you and me.  Noodle Village has a new marquee across the top of its storefront.  It consists of six sepia-tone photographs of Chinatowns at different periods.  I said Chinatowns, but not Chinatown, because I could not identify any of the settings as local.  I thought that the sight of steep steps pointed to either San Francisco or Hong Kong for one picture.  I’d need a ladder and some time to even begin to guess at the other locations, but, in any case, it makes an attractive sign.  A more conventional sign in the window was the other attraction.  It proclaimed Noodle Village as the winner of a recent contest for the best won ton soup in Chinatown.  That and the light drizzle falling were sufficient impetus (impeti?) to leave thoughts of duck behind and sit down for some soup.

The waitress informed me that the shrimp won ton noodle soup ($6.75 large) was the prize winner, and I muttered that it better be at that price.  Well, it sort of was and sort of wasn’t.  The large portion was barely medium-sized.  The broth was nice and hot, but too weak to be identified as either chicken-based or vegetable-based.  There were plenty of noodles, which of course made less room for soup.  The shrimp won tons, however, were outstanding, fat with shrimp.  On balance, I think Chinatown, our Chinatown, can do better.
Friday, November 1, 2013
The results of the New York State bar examination were released today in the New York Law Journal. 8,098, 69% of all test takers, passed, while 88% of graduates of New York law schools taking it for the first time passed.  The number sinks down to 37% of foreign-educated candidates.  I  couldn’t resist looking at the names of the passing applicants through an ethno-sociological lens, as I have done in the past.  Here is some data:

31 Chens
18 Cohens
11 Goldbergs
5 Gomezs
6 Gonzalezs
5 Kellys
49 Kims
8 Levys
32 Lis
33 Lius
6 Murphys
25 O’ names, e.g., O’Malley
16 Patels
6 Perezs
11 Rodriguezs
8 Shahs
19 Yangs
34 Zhangs

Finally, I am considering celebrating their success with Antonio Garcia Rodenburg De Medeiros Vieira Junior, Hwee Lee Danna Dolly Er, Li Li, Demian Hieronymus Christoph Von Poelnitz, Scheherazade Anjum Wasty, and Shazana Zumpfe-Cochran.