Friday, June 27, 2014

I ❤ Wo Hop

Monday, June 23, 2014
"I was 31 before I got my heart broken," began an essay that I read this weekend. After I read it, I took inventory of my own sad memories. I had my first heart break at 17 and my next at 42, if we are limited to the realm of romance. Additionally, I experienced crushing career disappointments at age 23, 34 and 47. Looking back, two different thoughts arise, although not mutually exclusive. I’ve managed to duck in time for the last several decades, and/or I may be overdue.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Currently, local sports talk radio is spending about as much time on Carmelo Anthony’s contract options as on the World Cup, since New York is not fielding its own team in the international competition. Anthony, the star New York Knicks basketball player, announced that he will exercise the early termination provisions in his contract, and shop himself around to other teams. Because of the baroque terms of professional basketball’s collective bargaining agreement, Anthony can receive as much as $129 million for five years if he re-signs with the Knicks, or $96 million for four years from another team. However, there is no guarantee that either number will actually be on the table. Had he chosen to play out the last year of his current contract, he would have received $23 million for the 2014-2015 season. All of which brings to mind Calvin Trillin’s Eleventh Commandment, "Enough is enough." Of course, those who worship rapacious greed admonish us that money talks, male bovine excrement walks.

Irwin Pronin, soon-to-be president of the Columbia Law School alumni association, joined me for lunch. We shared an amply-sized Peking duck at Mottzar Kitchen, 70 Mott Street, unsurpassed in the duck department at $25.95, with 10 spongy buns to make tidy bundles.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Last night, I had the pleasure of going to the Mets game with William Franklin Harrison, my friend and fellow congregant. Of all the people that I know, William Franklin Harrison is best prepared to become President of the United States. How can he fail with that name? However, William Franklin Harrison is 13-years old, which presents a problem for me. Article II, section 1 of the Constitution requires that a person be at least 35-years old to "be eligible to that Office [of President]." He will, therefore, be eligible in 2036, which conveniently is the year of a presidential election, if the Tea Party still allows elections. Facing actuarial reality, my chances of voting for William Franklin Harrison for president in 2036 are (how shall I say?) slim. Consequently, I will inaugurate the Draft Harrison campaign a bit early, bringing the horizon of his success within my sight, if not my reach. Cf. Deuteronomy 34:1-4.

Today, ever-reliable Stony Brook Steve was my lunch companion at ever-reliable Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street. We shared Singapore chow fun ($8.50), honey crispy chicken ($10.25) and white rice ($1), and made all gone.

The US Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that Utah’s ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional. This was predictable in light of he US Supreme Court’s decision exactly one year ago rejecting the Defense of Marriage Act. What surprised me was the number of people apparently affected by this latest ruling. Not just people, Utah people, Mormon people if you go by the numbers. The US Census Bureau estimates that there were 2,855,287 people in Utah on July 1, 2012, over 62% of them Mormon. In the 17 days after a Federal district court ruled against Utah in December, over 1,000 same sex couples married in Utah, until a stay went into effect pending this appeal. That means that at least a couple of thousand homosexuals were lurking in Utah, waiting for the opportunity to register at Williams-Sonoma. I can only imagine how many more will emerge now that they can proceed down the aisle in more assured fashion. Were 62% of these newlyweds Mormon? Probably not. But, you have to wonder.

Thursday, June 26, 2014
Taiwan Pork Chop House, 3 Doyers Street, was Excellent Pork Chop House on my last visit (May 13, 2010). I found the newer version brighter and cheerier, although still not excellent. I ordered wonton with spicy oil ($3.50) and salt and pepper fried chicken ($4.25). The wonton, the delicate kind in a thin wrapper, were hot, but not hot hot. The chicken was a bit warmed over and greasy, but that never stopped me.

Friday, June 27, 2014
Ending this week by eating at Wo Hop for the third time, I feel it necessary to offer some guidance for those who have not yet enjoyed their quintessential classic Chinatown cuisine, or as Mother Ruth Gotthelf used to say, Real Chinese Food. Do not order any beef dishes. While beef with scallions or tangerine beef are basic components of a well-rounded diet, Wo Hop’s beef, when served in chunks, is tough and stringy. By contrast, however, do order beef as part of another dish, notably beef chow fun (dry), beef fried rice or beef egg foo young. In those instances, Wo Hop serves thin(nish) slices of beef, tender and cooked just right. I don’t know whether they use different cows for different parts of the menu, but, trust me, you might as well be in different restaurants.

Friday, June 20, 2014

To A Tee

Monday, June 16, 2014
Run, don’t walk to the 59E59 Theater for its annual Brits Off Broadway festival. This year, it features three works by Alan Ayckbourn, the brilliant British playwright of contemporary manners and mores. Saturday afternoon, we saw Time of My Life, a sad (but very funny) tale of a family falling apart. As Ayckbourn often does, there is time shifting, before and after the central event, a birthday party for the matriarch. All action occurs in the same place, a restaurant featuring some obscure ethnic cuisine, where the dishes remain unknown to the customers in spite of their regular patronage, even as their duties seem entirely unknown to the serving staff. Two other Ayckbourn plays are scheduled in this series, and we have tickets to them, as well. All three works will be on through June 29th. Go. See. Them.

I was showered with good wishes for Father’s Day, but I missed on the prize gifts identified in T, the hyper-glitzy supplemental Sunday magazine of the New York Times. The story’s sub-heading tells it all: "The humble T-shirt becomes a stylish message board thanks to flashy type and aggressive graphics." Of course, nothing humble remains in the items illustrating the article, T-shirts from Givenchy, Alexander McQueen and the like, priced from $140 to $3,000, and typically available only in sizes for the undernourished. That buys you one T-shirt, mind you. So, you can choose the item immediately below from Calvin Klein for $550, complete with ink stain, or, below that, one of my humble favorites for $21.95 from


If one wishes to clothe the naked while displaying exemplary good taste, I suggest that you avoid the fashion pages of the New York Times and stick to the sports section. 

Wretched excess was not limited to the price of T-shirts this weekend. The Times had a story about preparation for (high snob appeal) college admission. I was drawn to Application Boot Camp®, "in which roughly 25 to 30 kids will be tucked away for four days in a hotel to work with a team of about eight editors on . . . as many as 10 drafts of each of three to five different essays." The candidates also "develop an application strategy" and "receive advice on their odds at top colleges" during their internment, according to the outfit’s web site. The price for this experience is $14,000, T-shirts extra.

What was a Japanese solar panel company doing filming a television commercial today on the plaza opposite the courthouse where they were situated to leave the iconic courthouse steps out of the picture? I sure couldn’t tell you.

You might want to read this article:
It turns out that judges are human, after all.   

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Happy Birthday to America’s Favorite Epidemiologist as she grows younger each year. I understand that a manicure will be one of the benchmarks of today’s festivities. I mention that because my first impression upon meeting this scientific lady in 1996 was how nice her fingernails were considering that she must spend all day at a laboratory bench. I soon learned that her work was done primarily at a computer keyboard, but even that can be hard on your nail polish. In any case, she maintains close attention to her fingertips to this day.

For the first 2 ½ years after I relocated to the big courthouse on Centre Street, I sat in the office right next to Cindy’s. She had a niece born on the exact same day as Boaz. Her husband was a big Rangers fan, and I met them at Madison Square Garden a couple of times, although he and I were never able to find a convenient time to go to a game together. I asked her advice when I confessed to her that I can’t dance, but would really like to learn because my wife enjoys it so much. Her suicide shocked me as it must have anyone who knew her. Her postpartum depression evidently rose to psychosis and led to her terrible end. Friends, family, professionals all came to her aid, reassuring her of her qualities as a person and a mother. What else was needed to save her?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014
The hottest day of the year so far, expected to reach 90. This did not deter the cool guys in the Boyz Club meeting for dim sum at 88 Palace, 88 East Broadway, one of the largest and busiest restaurants in Chinatown. I was annoyed at first when I walked in, told them I needed a table for eight and they steered me to the furthest end of the restaurant. I pointed to the big, better decorated center section, that was mostly empty, and moved in that direction. No, No, as I was escorted back to the back. After several Harumphs, I figured out that a party was being held in the coveted area, as a stream of people with red sashes or tunics filed in. Soon, we could all hear drums, cymbals and bagpipes from that part of the restaurant even as my crew began to consume countless plates of familiar and unfamiliar items. Our conversation wandered all over the place, from Eddie Cantor’s family tree to the value of whistleblower law suits. The only subject that all agreed upon was the likelihood that the bill for just under $64 was in error. 

Friday, June 20, 2014
Last night, we saw Farcicals, a second Alan Ayckbourn work at Brits Off Broadway.  True to its title it was broad and bawdy.  That Alan sure is a card.

The World Cup serves to remind us of how civilized the good old USA is compared to so much of the known world, at least in our ability to avoid rioting before, during and after a major sports event.  While Ranger fans were unhappy at the results of the Stanley Cup finals, we left the streets of New York free of burning tires, overturned motor vehicles, broken shop windows and bruised and battered fellow citizens.  Last year's baseball season ended in disappointment for both local teams.  All that resulted, however, were Yankee fans repeating their deeply embedded claims of entitlement, while Mets fans slinked off to dark rooms yet again.  No looting, no arson, no mass arrests.  Do we have a form of attention deficit disorder when it comes to our teams?  Or, as I have suggested recently, do we have too much to pay attention to?  Mets, Rangers, Giants, Knicks to be devoted to, making sure to leave time to disparage the local alternatives, no less the evil spirits in the uniforms of the Atlanta Braves, Dallas Cowboys, Boston Bruins, et alia.  Venceremos!        

A final word on competition, especially the World Cup.  I admit to peeking in every so often, especially when only baseball is available on television right now.  I have to give credit to those guys running back and forth chasing that ball.  I was never a runner, so even if soccer had been invented when I was a boy, it wouldn't have been my sport.  Watching the Ecuador-Honduras match, even as I write these comments, I've gained great insight into the exaggerated, crazed behavior of soccer fans.  Honduras scored a goal towards the end of the first half.  Get this -- It was the first goal that Honduras scored in World Cup competition in 32 years.  Not the first victory (the game is still on at 7:22 Eastern Daylight Time), but the first goal.  It makes the almost 28 years that Mets fans have been waiting to win a World Series seem like a blink of the eye.  At least, we made it to the World Series again in 2000, and some seasons we won more games than we lost.  We have a drought, for sure, but there has been some evidence of our existence in these too many years.  Honduras last scored a goal in Ronald Reagan's first term.  I'd be crazy, too.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Play Ball

Monday, June 9, 2014
Can you do this? Can you earn $141,949,280 running a business while it loses money year after year? Do you have the qualifications to take in $141,949,280 when your company’s total revenue is $267,213,000? That’s what Charif Souki of Cheniere Energy, Inc. is doing, placing him at the top of a list of chief executive’s compensation published in the Times yesterday.

It’s not that 2013 was a singular bad year for Cheniere. It hasn’t made money since 2005, the earliest financial report that I was able to find. Of course, the apologists for rapacious greed will claim that you have to pay Souki to keep him from jumping ship. Well, I say let him jump to a competitor’s ship and do for it what he has done for Cheniere.

And, why can’t he take a few centimes off the top and hire some folks who might know how to make money. If this is the market at work, to Hell with the market. It’s clearly not efficient; it only serves rapacious greedsters, not the public, not members of the company (with one notable exception). Talk about job creation? How about Souki earning a mere $5 million annually, and use the other $136,949,280 to hire 1,369 engineers, geologists, secretaries and computer geeks, averaging $100,000 a year, leaving almost $50,000 for a nice company picnic.

I’m just a sentimental slob at times. So, I was moved when I read about the upcoming wedding of L. P., a Broadway assistant director, and J. R., an actor who most recently appeared in a film entitled 4:44 Last Day on Earth (2011), playing the part of Suicide, listed in the credits just above Woman with Coat. The bride-to-be told the New York Times, "It was about tradition." Mind you, she was not talking about wearing some cherished heirloom as part of her bridal outfit, or carrying a family bible, or holding the ceremony in a symbolic location. It’s the cake, the $3,000 wedding cake, five tiers, incorporating the wedding’s white and pink colors. I could not think of anything more traditional to symbolize the marriage of these two marginal show business figures than a $3,000 wedding cake. I imagine that the plan is to keep a lot of leftover cake in the freezer in case their dreams of stardom somehow go unrealized.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Happy 30th anniversary to Burt and Geri, a statistically-improbable but long-thriving couple.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014
I had one bright sports light last night when I saw the Mets neatly beat the second best team in the National League. The Mets were particularly efficient with solid pitching, excellent fielding and clutch hitting, finishing the game in less than three hours, an increasingly rare phenomenon. Where once a normal baseball game could be completed in a bit over two hours, today, with the demands of television, and the seeming inability of pitchers and batters to conquer jock itch, games are stretching towards four hours, which, as a Mets fan, means extended agony.

I had another bright light today, when Stony Brook Steve came downtown for lunch. We went to West New Malaysia Restaurant, 46-48 Bowery, in the arcade connecting to Elizabeth Street. We shared a particularly good beef with orange flavor, pricey at $13.95, but worth it when matched with Indonesian fried rice ($7.95), spicier than the usual versions.

Thursday, June 12, 2014
While unconfirmed at present, it seems that Eric Cantor, Republican Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, upset in the Republican primary Tuesday, will likely follow in his grandfather Eddie Cantor’s footsteps and pursue a career in show business. Eric, not heretofore known to be as animated as his performing grandfather, is apparently poised to reach out to humorists, choreographers and song writers, with an eye to offering an act with updated versions of some of Eddie’s hit songs, such as "Makin’ Whoopee," "If You Knew Susie," "Ma! He’s Makin’ Eyes at Me," and "How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree?)". Cantor is expected to sign a contract with the William Morris Agency in the next few days.

Cold sesame noodles. I knew that’s what I wanted for lunch, although I haven’t been delighted by it too often in Chinatown. I entered 456 Shanghai Cuisine, 69 Mott Street, when I saw cold sesame noodles on the menu hung outside, usually having been pleased by 456 previously (October 15, 2010, September 19, 2011, October 10, 2012, July 11, 2013). This time, however, I can only muster an adequate for the very generous portion served for $3.75. Some noodles were stuck together and the sesame sauce was weak and sparse. The tea, at no extra charge, was very good, and the airconditioning was refreshing on this muggy day.

Friday, June 13, 2014
We know that Republicans have been so concerned about the quality of American democracy that they have been promoting and enacting legislation to protect access to the electoral process, guarding against voter fraud. I suggest that they take it a step further and control access to elections by candidates as vigorously as they control access by voters. After all, the potential harm of one bad candidate far outweighs the potential harm of possibly numerous bad voters. And, the Republicans can take on this campaign without requiring the assistance of obstructionist Democrats, you know the type who pledged themselves to limiting Barack Obama to a two-term presidency. The Republicans, ever frugal, don’t even have to invest in developing a test for their own candidates’ competency; they can use the test applied to Donald Sterling, controversial owner of basketball’s Los Angeles Clippers. According to reports, the test asks the subject to spell "world" backwards, count down from 100 by 7s, and draw a clock. Some Republican strategists are recommending a less time-consuming test, focussing on some of the same tested elements: "God created the _ _ _ _ _ in _ days."

I went to New Mandarin Court, 61 Mott Street, knowing it to be a reliable source of both a limited dim sum selection and regular dishes at lunchtime (April 12, 2010, July 13, 2010, November 16, 2010, July 7, 2011, May 11, 2012, April 29, 2013).  After I ate shu mei, shrimp dumplings, vegetable dumplings ($2.50 per plate) and two banana leaf-wrapped lumps of sticky rice ($3.50), I found that I was in a new restaurant, Golden Mandarin Court, the third iteration at this address.  Not all the signage has changed, and, admittedly, there were few differences, if any, that I noticed.  But, add one to the count.  

A case is now proceeding upstate New York concerning a male teacher and soccer coach who was fired after admitting having sex with two former female students many years earlier, several years apart. There are some interesting wrinkles to the case; each girl had graduated and was 18 years old at the time of the incidents, when the teacher was 28 and 31 respectively. I found particularly fascinating the New York Law Journal’s report that he had sex with two former team members "after taking them to New York Mets games in 1989 and 1993." I simply never recognized the aphrodisiacal qualities of my favorite baseball team.  What have I been missing?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Happy Anniversary?

Monday, June 2, 2014 
We spent the day flying home.  The only inefficiency in our otherwise first-rate trip to Portugal was the routing of our flights.  We flew to Lisbon via Zurich and returned from Porto via Frankfurt.  This resulted from putting ourselves entirely in the hands of the tour organizer, writing only one check for all aspects of the program, and paying less than the sum of the parts.  Our Porto-Frankfurt flight was enlivened by the presence of the Czech national men’s volleyball team, returning from splitting two games against Portugal over the weekend.  Unfortunately, the aisles of the airplane were too narrow for any effective displays of athletic prowess.  We recovered some of the extra time taken for our indirect flight by walking into the Palazzo di Gotthelf within one hour of our 747 touching down at JFK, thanks to carry-on luggage, a new automated US passport control system, an aggressive cab driver and light post-rush hour traffic.  
Yesterday, with free time at midday and America’s Favorite Epidemiologist shopping with some of our traveling companions, I sought the perfect ending for this wonderful vacation – a Portuguese Chinese restaurant.  Helena, our great guide, who makes her home in Porto, told me that there was a Chinese restaurant a short distance from our centrally-located hotel.  I proceeded up Rua de Santo Ildefonso, hooked over to Passeio de San Lazaro, backtracked on Rua Passos Manuel passing by Coliseu do Porto, which had a matinee performance of Carmina Burana, without seeing any sign of a Chinese restaurant, past, present or future.  Later, a look at Trip Advisor showed four Chinese restaurants in Porto, including Restaurante Nova China, down the block from Coliseu do Porto.  Mind you, I was operating without an address, relying on my impeccable sense of direction and powers of observation, as I waltzed right by on the other side of the street.   
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Back at work, I had some culinary catching up to do.  That meant lunch at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, for beef and chicken chow fun ($7.35 including tax).  In a couple of days, when my biorhythms are back in sync, I’ll go back on the prowl for new joints.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Today is the 25th anniversary of the Chinese government’s violent response to pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.  At the time, I was visiting the Netherlands alone, after losing probably the best job that I ever have had, although I managed to migrate to an interesting position for the next year.  I stayed in classic canal houses in Amsterdam and the Hague, and modest hotels and guest houses in Maastricht, Leeuwarden, and Middleburg, as I essentially wandered the country edge to edge.  I didn’t miss television, and the Internet had not yet been named and was narrow in scope. 
I was having a good time innocently consuming rijsttafel, an array of 20, 30, even 40 small Indonesian-based dishes, something I only recall having in Los Angeles once or twice.  I didn’t know anyone, so my conversations were limited to railroad and hotel clerks, and folks serving food and beverages.  As I walked around Amsterdam though, I started to notice dramatic-appearing but incomprehensible headlines and vivid color photographs on the front pages of Dutch newspapers.  Finally, I learned that there were demonstrations in Beijing promising a breath of democracy to that oppressive society.  Then, pictures of an improvised Statue of Liberty were replaced by those of that heroic young man confronting a tank, and, finally, the dead and wounded.      
When we went to China in 2008, a visit to Tiananmen Square was obligatory.  We learned that access to this enormous open space, approachable from any direction in 1989, was now limited by carving a moat around its perimeter and requiring passage through a subway (in the British sense), that is, a corridor below ground with stairs at both ends.  This allowed the regime to stop or limit movement to Tiananmen Square, and inspect those people passing by.  Additionally, watchdogs in various uniforms were omnipresent, and you could feel that the crowds were peppered with plainclothes agents.   
Tonight begins the Stanley Cup finals, with the Rangers in Los Angeles for the first two games.  Press reports on ticket prices state that games 3 and 4 in New York, at Madison Square Garden, are averaging $1,800, beginning at $1,000 for tickets with a nominal average face value of $750, beginning at $450.  Under these circumstances, it seems that my string of attending one game at each playoff round – Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Montreal – is about to be broken.  I can’t fault Generous Jeff, who sold me his playoff seats for the early rounds at or about face value, for using his tickets to the Stanley Cup finals to finance a tidy vacation.  
Television coverage of the games should be more than adequate, although America’s Favorite Epidemiologist is apprehensive about my watching the high-definition, flat screen set in our bedroom lest the neighbors misinterpret the boisterous sounds emanating therefrom during the course of the event.  

Speaking of coincidences, Jerry Saltzman and his lovely daughter Katherine were called to jury duty at the same time and sent to the same courtroom to be examined as prospective jurors and were both rejected (for schedule conflicts, not character deficiencies).  However, they salvaged the day by having lunch with me at Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street, and coincidently agreed that the scallion pancake was maybe the best that they ever had.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
We shall overcome!
I went to Ken’s Asian Taste, 40 Bowery, for dim sum in a quieter atmosphere than some of my big favorites.  The ladies with the carts only had about two dozen dishes to offer, but the five that I had were all very good and only $2 each.  Note that cooking skills here are much better than language skills, so, if you are curious about what you are eating, you may have to attract several employees to your table.   

Friday, June 6, 2014
It’s 70 years since D-Day, David and Irit's 10th wedding anniversary and, coincidentally, the 11th Annual Caren Aronowitz Unity in Diversity Program at the courthouse.  This endeavor attempts to bridge the gaps among our many different identity groups (religion, race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, job title) through food.  I can attest that I, and hundreds of other court employees, lawyers and jurors otherwise stuck in the building, have heartily engaged in the eating aspect of the event in the past (June 7, 2013, June 10, 2011), going table to table scooping up representative offerings from over two dozen groups.  However, no chairs are provided in the magnificent ground floor rotunda, where the event is held, which thereby avoids the litmus test of intergroup relations – you might eat food prepared by Them, but will you eat it sitting next to Them?  I felt sorry for my friend the lesbian, Puerto Rican, Jewish court reporter, a union local officer and member of the Municipal Credit Union, who has too many people to relate to.     
Quote of the day from the New York Law Journal: “A couple without a marriage license who purportedly solemnized their union with a ‘pseudo-Jewish’ ceremony conducted by an Internet-ordained minister at a Mexican beach resort are not legally married, a [New York] judge has ruled.”