Friday, December 6, 2013

Digest This

Monday, December 2, 2013
Clear liquids, all day, all night.  Maybe it is appropriate that after a long holiday weekend, filled with special meals and parties, that my choices for today day are limited to water and apple juice.  This is to prepare for a medical procedure tomorrow, after which I expect to return to the path of gluttony.  This temporary period of restraint I am finding harder than the all-day total fast of Yom Kippur.  I’ve gone to work today and at lunchtime I took a walk.  I found myself besieged by enticing odors from sidewalk carts and the joints whose doors are opening and closing constantly for customers.  At least, on Yom Kippur, I sit relatively still in a big room filled with equally deprived Jews.  There’s no question that thoughts of refreshment often nudge thoughts of atonement aside while at services, but I feel that I am not alone in shul.  Among the other pious ones, a yearning for spirituality may well be at odds with a yearning for a pastrami sandwich.  I’m not trying to take my transitory deprivation too seriously, because there are too many folks around who will not be eating well again even after 24 hours have passed.  It’s funny how many politicians and their mouthpieces appear hyper-alert to the prospect of what they label class warfare, when, in fact, they have already won that war.  I’m not looking for the redistribution of wealth, just the distribution of wealth.  Too many have none, too few have most.  There are very few people that I could tolerate being stuck in an elevator with who claim that it’s the right way to run a country.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013
I think that I failed a test today.  It wasn’t the probe of my kishkes conducted by Doctor-Lawyer-Rabbi Traube, my personal gastroenterologist, which produced a satisfactory result, although, as usual, the 24 hours before was one of the most miserable periods of my life.  I wrote yesterday about wandering about the fragrant streets of Manhattan, limited to water and apple juice as refreshment.  Note that I later realized that vodka and gin qualified as clear liquids.  It got worse, of course, once I began drinking that foul liquid which prepares your insides for a closeup look.  Worsest (incorrect, but that’s how I felt), I was swallowing this devil’s brew as I was swallowing the Rangers’ 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

The test failure came as I was signing in for the procedure.  The clerk went through the typical inventory of inquiries, name, address, birth date, allergies, medications, and then asked “Religion?”  I barely paused and said “Pass.”  Now, except for some residents of southern California who took me for an Englishman because of my accent, my Hebrew heritage has been easily recognized and even proudly flaunted far and wide.  Yet, I could not utter “Jew” when asked.  Was my lack of candor rooted in the history of discrimination, a concern for civil liberties, stubborn independence or, merely, embarrassment?  I was on East 38th Street in Manhattan, damn it, not Dusseldorf or Damascus.  Ironically, I was about to put my ass in the hands of an orthodox rabbi who has a day job as a doctor.  Go figure.

The procedure went well and my exit from the hospital was eased by the company of Stony Brook Steve, who kindly came to escort me off the premises.  Once upon a time, just as you could walk into just about any building in New York City without ceremony, you could leave a hospital or treatment center by yourself if your legs could carry you.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Today’s Times has an interesting article about college faculty adjuncts, those poor over-educated schnooks who handle significant teaching loads for chump change.
For instance, the article identifies a married couple in the Boston area who teach 11 courses between them, at rates of $2,100 to $6,500 per course.  Given the actual time needed to conduct a 3 credit (hour) course, this does not produce a living wage.

When I was asked to depart from Cornell University, my expectations of ever teaching a college class again evaporated.  I managed to string together some teaching jobs in woebegone private high schools in order to delay visiting Vietnam for 47 years.  However, there was nothing educational or academic about these settings.  Fortunately, they lacked the drama of Blackboard Jungle, but also lacked its exciting soundtrack.

Once ensconced in the business world, in 1982, I had the opportunity to return to the front of a college classroom.  I was asked to teach a one-credit course on computers in the law office, as an adjunct, at Bronx Community College, a division of the City University of New York (CUNY) (which I always considered to be a gimmick to vitiate the glory of CCNY).  Since I treasured the opportunity to prance in front of a group of college students again, money was no object, which was just as well, because I got something like $37 per hour, that is for the one classroom hour weekly, and my job as a management consultant was paying me well.  I loved this gig and I think the students, aiming for jobs as paralegals, not lawyers, benefitted from my efforts, which came at a time when law firms were finally beginning to catch up with other businesses in the use of computers.  However, although invited to continue, I made that my first and last semester, because the college’s isolated location in the northwest Bronx prevented me from doing what I thought was needed to do justice to the subject – Show and Tell.  I wanted to take my class in and out of law firms and computer showrooms so that they could see the real life examples that I tried to illustrate with brochures, promotional materials and snappy patter.  The one hour that they were to spend with me would not have even covered the time on the subway to get to the nearest computer installation of any interest (in those days when computers were larger than hair brushes).

If asked to teach a course, any course, in college today, instinctively, I would lunge at the opportunity.  However, given my decent current earnings, I hope that I would defer to someone who could really use the $3,000 or so for the semester.  After all, that equals the $3,095 median monthly rent for an apartment in Manhattan “according to a report today [October 10, 2013] by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and broker Douglas Elliman Real Estate.”

I was not looking for a new place to eat today as I went to purchase plumbing supply items, armed with photographs of the inside of my toilet tank to better identify the needed parts.  However, as I walked back from the hardware store, I glanced at the storefront at 139 Centre Street, which houses ABC Pharmacy, a new business.  In fact, a bunch of new independent pharmacies have appeared in Chinatown recently, in contrast to the contagious spread of Duane Reade over the rest of Manhattan Island.  I wonder if Obamacare makes a special provision for Chinese druggists?  In any case, upon closer examination, Queen Bakery Inc. shares the space with the drugstore.  It’s a small space almost entirely clad in marble with three tables and about ten chairs.  It does not display the typical array of highly decorated cakes and pastries, nor did I see any hot dogs wrapped in lard-laden dough.  Instead, it offers a small group of noodle soups along with a collection of buns for immediate consumption or takeaway.  I had wonton, noodle and beef stew soup ($5.25).  The only unmentioned ingredient was lettuce, which pleasantly wilted in the hot broth.  The beef was flanken by any other name; the wontons (about 8) were in a thin, non-gummy wrapper.  The portion was ample and I felt satisfied on my first day back in control of my gastrointestinal tract.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Again, it took four or five tries to find half a Peking duck.  I guess, in Chinatown at lunchtime, one is the loneliest number.  Yee Li Restaurant, 1 Elizabeth Street, had a good, juicy duck, which also equates to too much fat ($19).  It was served with four round, spongy buns, scallions, cucumber and carrot slivers, hoisin sauce and pastel shrimp chips.  There was a hefty leg and wing and much of the carcass along with the pieces of skin and meat to be wrapped in the buns.  Not a bad deal overall, if you take the trouble to trim some pieces of duck before ingesting.

Friday, December 6, 2013
I had lunch with Marty the Super Clerk, who controls the administration at 71 Thomas Street, the lonely little courthouse in Tribeca.  Today, I was delivering theater tickets to him which will be his wife’s Christmas presents.  This has become an annual ritual for us since it is easy for me to stop in the theater district on the way home from work, thereby avoiding the onerous surcharges on tickets ordered by computer or telephone.  Also, Marty recognizes me as a bit of a culture vulture, aware of current Broadway shows, and willing to put aside, at least temporarily, my own idiosyncratic taste in order to choose something to delight them on a future weekend in Manhattan away from their suburban New Jersey nest.

On my way home, I stopped in midtown to shop for gifts, Hanukkah 2014 gifts, at the New York Public Library's shop.  I was very pleased with the results of this foray, as I expect at least a few of you will be about a year from now.  Waiting for the uptown bus on this rainy night after shopping, I saw a fabulous sight, which I hope I've captured for you.

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