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.” 

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