Monday, August 11, 2014
The day started well enough with a visit to Dr. Traube, rabbi, attorney and fabled gastroenterologist, who has traveled up and down my digestive system. After showing me some lovely photographs of irritated sections of my gullet, taken in 2012, he suggested that he plumb the depths again in a few weeks. He has no particular concern about the state of my kishkes, but, as an Orthodox Jew who strictly observes the Kosher laws, he is apparently more fascinated by the weird things that I eat on a regular basis. Unlike a colonoscopy, which Dr. Traube performed on me late last year, an upper endoscopy only requires fasting in the waking hours before the procedure without the need to ingest the devil’s brew that aids visibility in the nether regions. No problem.
The first disappointment today came when Gil Glotzer, attorney to the stars, called to cancel our lunch date. That left me to eat vaguely Middle Eastern food from a sidewalk cart on a Styrofoam tray at an outdoor plaza just south of the Thurgood Marshall Federal Courthouse on Centre Street. It was pleasant enough, but not what I had looked forward to.
Then, my manager told me that I was more judicial in my writing, than judicious. That is, reaching conclusions, sometimes stretching a bit, rather than considering all the angles and exhaustively weighing the alternatives. I don't really disagree with that assessment, but, overall, I'm not sure that I consider it a personal flaw, even if it occasionally takes me outside the boundaries of my job description. Ultimately, my judgment isn’t being criticized as much as the route that I seem to take arriving at it.
Late afternoon brought the news of Robin Williams’s death, a suicide at age 63. I loved his comedic presence in Mork and Mindy, his breakthrough television series; Good Morning, Vietnam, with his manic behavior in the midst of the absurdity of Vietnam; and Birdcage, brilliantly improvising at times. On the other hand, I avoided all those movies where he portrayed a purportedly wise or serious character. Their sentimental aura kept me far from the box office, and unwatched, even today, when shown on home television. But, that's me.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Some sense of proportion was restored today when I finished reading Ten Glass Bottles at lunch today at Wo Hop, the story of a prosperous Viennese Jewish family that escaped the Nazis in 1939 by going to Shanghai, the only place in the world that would accept stateless Jewish adults. As I’ve said before, their story roughly parallels the Bergers’, my former in-laws.
An especially interesting passage caught my eye near the end of the book, when the war has ended, all strictures removed from the ghettoized Jews of Shanghai, and American soldiers, food and money are circulating through the community. The author, writing in the voice of her mother, says: “We have vowed to ourselves not to tell the children we may nurture one day, not anyone in the outside world, what we have suffered. No one needs to know. How else can we go on? If we have to relive it, we will all go mad.” This was the attitude of the Bergers, who never reminisced (in the 8 years that I was around) in front of their daughter and son about their life in Shanghai, or the comfortable existence in Vienna preceding it. Reading this book, with its vivid descriptions of the degradation, disease and cruelty these refugees endured, even while facing typhoons and American bombing in vermin-infested, ramshackle living space, I could appreciate the instinct to leave it all behind. Yet, Gerda Karpel Kosiner, unlike the Bergers, eventually told her story to her daughter, who recreated it in this book.
WATER MILL, N.Y. (AP) — A street sign memorializing a nun killed in a New York hit-and-run has been removed after local residents called it depressing. Newsday (http://nwsdy.li/1uCPFbm ) said Monday that the sign designating “Sister Jackie’s Way” in the Hamptons was removed last week.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Last night, the Poloner kids got together for dinner for Uncle Myron’s birthday. When we gather thus, we favor the guidance of Leviticus and Deuteronomy over Michelin and Zagat’s. The underlying principle is found at Exodus 23:19, in the spine-chilling prohibition that “You shall not cook a kid (young goat) in its mother’s milk.” Therefore, we dined at etc. steakhouse, 1409 Palisade Avenue, Teaneck, NJ, a strictly Kosher restaurant. Kosher dining is consistently more expensive than its “American” counterpart, but our party of six had some advantages that kept us from gasping at the bottom line. First and foremost was the underlying real estate. We were in New Jersey, not midtown Manhattan where outstanding steakhouses are concentrated. So, while steaks at the Palm, my favorite, run $46 to $59.50 at dinner, etc. was in the 40s for slightly smaller portions. Second was its BYOB policy. We brought and finished 3 bottles of wine, strictly Kosher of course, that totaled $60-75 retail. If etc. sold the wine, we would have spent $200 at least. As a result, a good time was had by all, gastronomically, socially and economically.
I certainly have blind spots, but one that I have knowingly cultivated over the years is medical economics – healthcare and its costs. Fortunately, America’s Favorite Epidemiologist is not only able to tell me who is likely to catch what, but who will pay for it. However, my willful ignorance is periodically tested by baffling information. Yesterday, I received a refill of my blood pressure pills, which, I am happy to note, have contributed to a reading on Monday at Dr. Truabe’s office of 72 over 110. The cost for 90 pills was $654.63 entirely paid for by my health insurance plan, not even a co-pay. This is so good, that I guess I understand why Republicans want to keep it away from poor people.
Carol’s Bun, 139 East Broadway, sits next to a yeshiva, an Orthodox Jewish school, that dates from the early 1900s. It is the remnant of a neighborhood that used to teem with Jewish schools, publications, social groups and political associations, reflective of the local population.
Carol’s has a regular menu with sections devoted to reputedly Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong cuisine, along with a small sectioned labeled “spaghetti,” not noodles. To save time, however, I accepted the suggestion of one of the two ladies in the front of the small store standing over a collection of a dozen or more prepared items. I choose fried rice, sweet and sour pork, asparagus with beef, and roast chicken, served on pristine Styrofoam for $4.75. Even though the space was small and close, I was comfortable seated at one of the three tables placed among tall refrigerated cabinets and the serving area, with enough room to do the crossword puzzle.
Friday, August 15,2014
We are in Massachusetts today, celebrating Noam's fourth birthday. A party was held for friends and neighbors earlier in the week,but a special treat was reserved for the visiting grandparents -- whale watching. This entailed almost four hours at sea on a large ship out of Boston Harbor. It was very exciting when we spotted two male humpback whales diving up and down as they fed on schools of fish. It must be noted, however, that it took almost 1 1/2 hours to get to whale-land, or whatever the proper term is. Much of that time was spent running at high speed over 3 foot swells (waves). So, I think that it was a perfectly reasonable response to those conditions for a person to throw up.