Friday, March 14, 2014

Cake Walk

Monday, March 10, 2014
“All the News That’s Fit to Print” is the famous motto of the New York Times, but I’m disappointed to say that, at least yesterday, they failed terribly in meeting this goal.  It was not a matter of some rush-rush, breaking story where exactitude had to be sacrificed in order to get out the basic details.  Instead, a small feature piece entitled “Stolen Recipe?  No Little Old Lady?” describes a bustling Brooklyn bakery named Mrs. Maxwell’s Bakery omitted critical information. 

The Times tells us that “a procession of cars and minivans began to stream into the bakery’s parking lot” on a Sunday morning as church services ended.  Later, “the place was packed with boisterous families.”   By now, my antennae were throbbing -- a great bakery operating for about 85 years located in East New York, my boyhood neighborhood, “on Atlantic Avenue on the way home from Kennedy Airport.” 

Let’s turn for a moment away from gastronomy to geography.  Atlantic Avenue starts at the East River, runs the entire width of Brooklyn into Queens, ending at 147th Street in Jamaica.  About 3/4 of the distance of Atlantic Avenue is in Brooklyn, roughly 9 of 12 miles, all of which could be on your way home from Kennedy Airport.  Now, I grew up in East New York, a neighborhood not widely known, on Pitkin Avenue, two long blocks south of Atlantic Avenue.  I never heard of Mrs. Maxwell’s, so I read the article very carefully.  In many column inches, the Times was unable to fit in the address of the bakery.  Where in Hell is Mrs. Maxwell’s?  It’s easy to get confused, especially when West New York is in New Jersey.  Even if you knew the relative location of East New York, it is a designation that extends several miles itself.   

This is where Grandpa Alan comes to your rescue.  A quick inquiry, which should not have been beyond the research skills of the Times, reveals the address of Mrs. Maxwell’s as 2700 Atlantic Avenue, between Vermont Street and Wyona Street, much closer to the Queens County line than the East River.  There are a couple of subway stops nearby, Liberty Avenue on the A and C lines, and Alabama Avenue on the J line.  While it’s not that hard to get there, please note that Mrs. Maxwell’s is situated well off the beaten path, miles from the newly-gentrified neighborhoods of Brooklyn that have drawn your suburban-raised children.  

An address that I’ll never forget is 17 Mott Street, where Wo Hop thrives below street level.  I had a (large as always) plate of chicken chow fun ($6.50) that held a delight in every bite.  The balance of flavors that Wo Hop manages with its chow fun dishes is remarkable, with the noodles a little Far East of al dente.  I’m again reminded of why I eat there once a week.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014
The e-mail message from Lexus of Manhattan reassured me that fixing our car will cost less than I spent last year fixing my teeth.  Although, as Stony Brook Steve sagely observed, “There goes your Spring vacation.”  Admittedly, our automobile had performed near-flawlessly for over 6 years, although not much was demanded of it as we both take the subway to work every weekday.  However, last week, the vehicle decided to declare its independence from the orderly affairs of the friendly Gotthelf family.  Given the gravity of the indicated problem(s), we had no choice but to fund the Spring vacation of Vito Perremuto, a service department manager at Lexus of Manhattan.  I hope I get a postcard.

Yesterday’s visit to Wo Hop was so satisfying that I returned today with Stony Brook Steve, who ordered the chicken chow fun. 

This week’s New Yorker magazine features an interview with the father of the Sandy Hook school executioner.  The father, who had not seen his son for two years before the terrible events of December 2012, describes his son as “evil,” and expresses the wish that his son, the younger of two boys, had never been born.  

The father’s painful thoughts brought to mind Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac, a biblical tale oft examined by clergy and psychotherapists alike.  Conventionally, the story is taken as a test of Abraham’s faith in God.  Abraham, doing God’s bidding, binds Isaac, lifts a knife to him, but is deterred at the last moment by an angel.  My lifetime is too short to begin contemplating whether the angel was rebelling against God, acting under God’s direction, God herself or simply Abraham’s conscience. 

And, what of that voice that guided Abraham to the brink of a terrible crime?  Did the young, alienated Sandy Hook killer hear a compelling voice also?  Abraham stopped in time, while the killer did not.  At a critical juncture, he stopped taking the medications which apparently temporarily substituted for an angel or a conscience.  

The other night, as America’s Favorite Epidemiologist and I were watching a string of Homeland episodes, she commented about my antagonism toward the fictional character Carrie Mathison, the brilliant but emotionally unstable CIA agent.  She, my bride that is, pointed out the similar feelings aroused in me by some people we know, as well as other fictional characters and celebrities, who go too far in one fashion or another.  Whether seduced by any of the Seven Deadly Sins or heavenly voices, I hope that those around me can pull back in time, as Abraham did.  If not, don’t expect me to be a source of comfort and understanding.  I know my limitations.

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