Friday, May 9, 2014

Song and Dance

Monday, May 5, 2014
Do you know this man?

As Secretary of the West End Synagogue, I want to thank Republican state senator Stacey Campfield of Knoxville, Tennessee for his concern about my tribe. Drawing a parallel with the Holocaust in his blog, he wrote "I think Jewish people should be the first to stand up against Obamacare. When you have government deciding who gets health insurance and who doesn’t, what services they get and what services they have to provide, they’re really deciding who lives and who dies."

Tuesday, May 6, 2014
I would like you to exercise your powers of observation over the next week or so to test the following propositions:

(A) Whether the American politicians most enthusiastic about the imposition of Christian prayer at public governmental meetings simultaneously sympathize with the manifestations of Islamic law anywhere in the world?

(B) Whether those American politicians most devoted to limiting government intervention in people’s lives stand up against the imposition of Christian prayer at public governmental meetings?

After all, the US Supreme Court held yesterday that "a challenge based solely on the content of a prayer will not likely establish a constitutional violation." While admittedly we New Yorkers (New York City actually, since the offensive decision focused on upstate New York) are unlikely to be regaled by invocations of Jesus Christ, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon or Rabbi Menachem Schneerson every time two politicians consort in public, you real Americans may expect to be Hallelujahed until your urine turns to sacramental wine.

Ah, I already hear the rumblings from the Domestic Enemies of Sanity. How can Grandpa Alan, an admitted card-carrying member of the International Jewish Conspiracy, oppose government-sponsored religious observance? Well, I simply believe that religious practice, like sex, should be conducted among consenting adults in relative privacy.

I set out on a long walk at lunch time to get far away from the US Supreme Court and the news of the increasing danger to the health and safety of my grandchildren posed by climate change. I passed by Division 31, not really expecting that they had dropped the hot pot in favor of feeding me lunch, and found it closed, with a sign announcing that it would be closed from April 1 to April 31 (sic), reopening May 1. It’s still closed and I’ll keep an eye on the space. Also, Gold River Malaysian Cuisine, 21 Division Street, a few doors away, was closed, without any explanation.

I ended my walk before reaching my mythic destination when I saw a bright sign and new storefront for Xing Wong BBQ Inc., 89 East Broadway. The medium-sized joint has 7 round tables and 5 four-tops, in a light and airy setting. The menu focused on noodle and rice dishes. Pointing to Singapore chow mei fun and beef chow fun on the menu, I asked for Singapore chow fun, the natural result of combining them ($7). I received a large portion of the wide noodles, cooked with that slightly tangy curry flavor, combined with shrimp, red pepper, green pepper, scallions, egg, onion, and slivers of 2 or 3 different meats, differing in color rather than taste. The food was good, service prompt. The potted plants decorated with red ribbons signaled the restaurant’s newness, but my poor language skills prevented me from learning just when it opened.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014
The Boyz Club met for lunch today at Mottzar Kitchen, 70 Mott Street, to enjoy its Peking duck, distinguished by excellent preparation and low price. Five of us shared two large ducks, served with puffy buns and all the accouterments. There was also one conscientious objector, possibly harkening back to fond memories of Donald, Huey, Dewey and Louie. Additionally, we had some mediocre small dishes, but the ducks stood out – well, stood out even though laying down.

Normally, I concentrate on the metropolitan Chinatown area, but I had a nice surprise and good news for those of you laboring in the fields of east midtown Manhattan when I stopped off on the way home. Just yesterday, Jacques Torres, the distinguished chocolatier, opened a small shop in the retail corridor running from Lexington Avenue into Grand Central Station, not the food court, but the passageway immediately south of it. Torres has been making and selling chocolates in New York since 2000. While his quality is high, his prices are reasonable, not cheap, but better than many competitors.

Less often than America’s Favorite Epidemiologist suspects, I visit his store on Amsterdam Avenue at 73rd Street. My favorite is his chocolate chip cookies, the best that I’ve ever had. Now priced at $3 each, they are four to five inches in diameter and made with discs of chocolate, not chips, that melt into the dough as they bake. This produces a pattern akin to the geological strata of the Grand Canyon. How wonderful.

Friday, May 9, 2014
Last night we saw "Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill," a reenactment of one of Billie Holiday’s last nightclub performances, shortly before she died in 1959, only 44 years old. I strongly recommend it to you for two reasons: Audra McDonald, a major concert and Broadway star, brilliantly recreates the drug- and drink-dissipated jazz singer whose public persona could not be at greater odds with McDonald’s own; this work, although ultimately fiction, brings back Billie Holiday for our entertainment and education. Inevitably, I thought back to the few live exposures that I had to Billie Holiday. I saw her either once or twice at outdoor jazz festivals held on Randall’s Island, beginning in 1956, an underutilized spot of land under the Triborough Bridge, notable then only as Stuyvesant High School’s home football field. The combination of her physical condition and my teenage callowness left me disappointed, at best, more likely dismissive of what I had witnessed.

A far more rewarding memory for me and some of the American public came in December 1957, when CBS presented "The Sound of Jazz," a one-hour live show, without tricked-up camera work or bloviated commentary. The show, almost a throwaway at five on a Sunday afternoon, featured Count Basie, Gerry Mulligan, Thelonious Monk and a thrilling mix of traditional and modern musicians. Without benefit of any recording or time-shifting mechanisms, I sat rapt in front of our black-and-white, monaural, 13-inch Dumont television set. Billie Holiday was outstanding, singing Fine and Mellow, reunited briefly with Lester Young, her ex-lover, on tenor saxophone.

Thanks to the example set by my big brother, I was already devoted to jazz, separating myself from my rock’n’roll contemporaries. While I later moved into the ambit of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, almost every minute of that 1957 broadcast remains with me 57 years later. I consider myself lucky for that reason.

Just as I was about to publish this blog, shut the computer and head to the Mets-Phillies game, the Associated Press released the Social(ist) Security Administration's list of most popular baby names for 2013.  I find these things fascinating.  Sophia, without the benefit of Sofia, leads all girl's names; Noah, the most popular boy's name, in spite of the movie reviews. 
While it did not make last year's list, I understand that many Republicans are currently naming their newborns Benghazi. 

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