Friday, April 11, 2014

40 Years, 4.5% and 44.98 Euros

Monday, April 7, 2014
I can’t think of a medical test that is enjoyable, or even slightly amusing. They may hurt you with needles. They may be life threatening, such as the cardiac stress test which is intended to see how long it takes to induce a heart attack. They may be introduced by an ugly 24-hour preparation period, such as a colonoscopy. Of course, the good results of a medical test should produce good feelings, possibly enough to outweigh the annoyance, inconvenience or discomfort of the test itself.

This morning, I had to take a visual field test to detect glaucoma, which may measure psychology more effectively than vision. With one eye covered by a patch, you place your head into half a dinosaur egg. You are directed to stare at a small light straight ahead. You hold an electric buzzer (silent actually, it doesn’t buzz). When you see little pinpoints of light anywhere in your field of vision, you press the buzzer. Eventually, a diagram of your hits and misses is produced, presumably showing how good your vision is, at least at detecting little pinpoints of light.

Each eye takes about five minutes, and as it goes on you get weary, hitting the buzzer because there should have been a pinpoint of light, maybe where there wasn’t. Worse is the challenge presented to a competitive sort like me, someone who usually did well on standardized tests even after an extended period of academic sloth and indolence in the normal learning environment. With my head inside that scooped out dinosaur egg, I know that I’m missing some flashes. I’m old and I’m there because of deteriorating vision. But, I don’t want to get a bad score. I want to hit all those damn lights; I want to produce a test diagram that looks as dense as the stars in the sky.

No physical pain, no hours of purging, no gasping for breath, but this is a rotten test.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Forty years ago today, Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, thereby beating Babe Ruth’s record. Since my memory is one of the too-few-to-begin-with virtues that I cling to, I sat for a few moments and was able to recover the experience. I was living and working in Los Angeles, managing a staff of computer programmers and analysts teamed with a sales force. A group of us, almost all salespeople (our office employed the first woman in sales nationally, I think) went to the Cock’n Bull Restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, opened in 1937 and closed in 1987. No, I am not kidding; I am not signifying that all that follows is bogus.

The Cock’n Bull was, in the words of the Los Angeles Times, "a mock British tavern favored by notables ranging from author Somerset Maugham and actor Richard Burton (who changed his favorite table each time he changed wives) to rock singer Rod Stewart and his soccer team." We favored it because it was noisy and crowded, poured good drinks and featured all-you-could-eat roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, with trifle for dessert. In those days before the existence of sports bars decorated entirely with Japanese television screens, Cock’n Bull was the perfect place to watch this important baseball game on one or two small television sets over the bar. I don’t think any of us watching (including other expatriate New Yorkers) were ever Atlanta Braves fans, an onerous label under any circumstances, but we were all rooting for Aaron. Fortunately, unlike some other celebrations that we had at the Cock’n Bull, all of us eventually made it home without the intervention of the LAPD.

A long walk got me to New Great Bakery, 303 Grand Street. It was new and a bakery, and fairly large. The left side of the joint was entirely taken by counters, with the hot food dispensed at the end. The other 2/3 of the space was taken by tables where one person sat in every other chair.

I had four buns ($2) filled with chopped indeterminate meat, and a dish of mei fun ($1.75), angel hair pasta, cooked with slight amounts of onion, celery, carrots and a few teeny slivers of meat. Put it this way, it would keep you from starving.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
I was doing a little daydreaming and recalling the excellent meal that America’s Favorite Epidemiologist and I had three years ago at Taillevent in Paris, a Michelin 2 star restaurant. Out of curiosity, I looked up the restaurant in Trip Advisor and found that it rated 4+ stars of 5, and sat 62 out of 11,984 restaurants reviewed in Paris. Since I seemed to never have eaten at the 61 restaurants preceding it, I can’t rightfully complain, but they should be awfully damn good by comparison. I’ll try and close the gap as soon as possible.

What interested me especially were the 17 "Poor" or "Terrible" reviews of Taillevent, out of the 373 recorded, about 4.5%. What went awry? I noted that the basic flaw among the disgruntled, as opposed to the giddy delight of the Upper West Side’s Power Couple, was going for dinner, not lunch. Taillevent offers a priced fixed lunch at a fraction of the cost of its à la carte dinner prices. This is typically the case in the finest restaurants in London, Paris and New York, allowing you to splurge without insolvency. Some of the negative reviewers hit one thousand bucks at dinner for two, although serious wine drinking was likely involved. I know that I could not be happy spending that much money at dinner with less than a minyan.

One of the unhappy few wrote in Japanese. Google offered to translate and here is an exact copy of a portion of Google’s translation:

"I chose the menu degustation the plunge is also Japanese menu, because it is quite likely to take in a la carte. Potion of Ichi-sara but ... I was impressed big fine (was great more a la carte but), and Yes with cream or butter all dish out dish out, Cry large in taste and beautiful dish at first completely give up by the time of the main meat in our couple to admission."

If you use Google to look up ichi sara, you encounter this lovely young lady modeling the Ichi Sara cape, on sale at 44.98 Euros.

In conclusion, Google should not quit its day job.

Friday, April 11, 2014
Arthur Dobrin trekked in from Westbury, New York to attend a conference and give a poetry reading at Poet’s House, " a national poetry library and literary center," located in Battery Park City. Situated on the lower western tip of Manhattan Island, this area was still the Hudson River when Hank Aaron hit his record-breaking home run. However, over 3 million cubic yards of soil and rock excavated during the construction of the World Trade Center and other projects, along with sand dredged from New York Harbor, created this new space. Stuyvesant High School relocated there in a building that is just about everything that the old one was not.

Since Arthur, who has the dubious distinction of being my oldest (in duration) friend, would be in downtown Manhattan in daylight, this gave us an opportunity to have lunch together. Because he expressed a preference for Asian food, I chose Kori Tribeca, 253 Church Street, the very good Korean restaurant where the Boyz Club met most recently. An additional coincidence is that Kori is the name of his daughter from long before the restaurant opened. We both had the Bulgoki lunch box, ($13.50), thin sliced marinated beef, salad, glass noodles, one fried dumpling, a slice of omelette, potato salad (!) and rice, he white, me brown. This is the fourth time I’ve been to Kori and it gets more crowded each time, deservedly.

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