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.

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