Friday, September 26, 2014

Auld Lang Zion

Monday, September 22, 2014
Mmuseumm ( is located on Cortlandt Alley, which runs two blocks from Leonard Street to White Street, bisecting the wide block between Lafayette Street and Broadway, just around the corner from New York County’s Family Court, a woeful place to be sure. (Nearest subways – Franklin Street on #1, Canal Street on #6, R, N, Q, J, Z.) It is referred to as the smallest museum in New York, but there is evidence that it may be the smallest museum in the world. There is an operation in Superior, Arizona that carries that title, but it claims to be 134 square feet, while New York’s alternative is only 60 square feet.

Mmuseumm occupies the former ground floor stop on a freight elevator, that neighborhood once occupied by light industry and warehouses. It’s open only weekend afternoons, but the slits in the door allow a look into the illuminated interior.

It is devoted to the jetsam of contemporary life, exhibits such as toothpaste tubes from around the world, "200 New Delhi Mosquitos Killed Mid Bite" and plastic spoons. These exhibits come from folks just like you and me, only weirder. 

I thought I was paying a return visit to 27 Sunshine, 46 Bowery, for dim sum today, but I could find no record of ever going there before. Then, I realized that this was the site of HSF, a very popular, early dim sum joint, and I merely assumed that I had been there more recently. In any case, lots of other people, all Chinese, found their way to this large restaurant, bright with yellow linen. I wasn’t very hungry, so I only had steamed pork dumplings (3 fat ones), steamed shrimp dumplings (4) and deep fried (not pan fried) shrimp dumplings (4), from the carts that came around pretty quickly. The steamed dumplings were nice and hot, contrary to Silverberg’s Law on Circulating Food, although the fried shrimp dumplings were no more than room temperature. All else went well, except for the math on the bill, which must have included the tip for the three adjacent tables.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014
The Texas legislature, with the hearty approval of Governor Rick Perry, has been trying to eliminate abortion in the state by imposing strictures on abortion clinics, forcing many to close. Perry proved to be almost as good a medical diagnostician as he was a mathematician during the 2012 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Speaking at the Texas Tribune Festival on Sunday, he said: "It was interesting that, when Joan Rivers, and the procedure that she had done where she died, that was a clinic. It’s a curious thought that if they had had that type of regulations in place [that have been imposed in Texas], whether or not that individual would be still alive."

Rock on, Rick.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
I've heard Barack Obama and Rabbi Marc Margolius, of West End Synagogue, quote Martin Luther King, Jr.'s optimistic adage that the moral arc of the Universe bends towards justice.  I've never accepted that idea for two reasons: Philosophically, I don't believe that there is any overarching meaning in the Universe, and practically, the history of humankind is marked by continuing exploitation and savagery.  I'm reminded of this by the front page of the New York Times, which reports people shouting "Death to the Jews!" and "Gas the Jews!" on the same European streets where this was successfully urged over 70 years ago.

The worst part of these events, in my mind, is the complicity of European intellectuals and academics in this behavior, even as they maintain silence at the news of the beheading of Westerners and the ethnic cleansing of Christian, Yezidi, Turkmen, Shabak, Kaka’e, Sabaeans and Shi’a communities by ISIS.  Who should be boycotting whom?

The following is written in advance, as the Jewish new year holiday (Rosh Hashanah) begins at sundown.  We are having dinner with Aunt Judi and Uncle Stu, as we do on other important occasions, especially Passover.  While there will be less of a crowd than at their fabulous seders, Judi will certainly provide a large variety of dishes to please us all.  The menu for tonight, I am told, is: French onion soup or zucchini pear soup with matzoh balls; beef brisket in a cranberry-onion sauce; honey-lemon glazed chicken with onion, mushroom and matzoh farfel stuffing; roasted turnips, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes with shallots and garlic; carrot muffins; and string bean salad.  Of course, there will be home-baked sugar cookies, chocolate chip mandelbrot (a personal favorite), and brownies.  Beverages hard and soft, hot and cold complete the fare.  Unlike Fox News, I will not invent facts and give opinions in advance, but I anticipate delight. 

Since no Chinatown lunch can serve as an appropriate lead-in to tonight's dinner, I chose something completely different -- sushi at Tokyo Mart, 91 Mulberry Street, a Japanese supermarket with a little sushi stand.  Since my last visit, they replaced the counter inside the front door with a high round table, still using three stools.  The sushi was packaged, but my serving of a cooked salmon and avocado roll, dusted with salmon caviar, cut into seven pieces, and four pieces of grilled eel sushi ($8) was quite fresh, as if it had been made to order.  The contrast with my reasonable expectations for this evening was complete, fish vs. no fish, solitary dining vs. a raft of relatives, primitive surroundings vs. stylish decor, but it was thoroughly satisfying in its own way.    

Friday, September 26, 2014
Welcome 5775.  I can't offer undifferentiated wishes for health and happiness to all; that's not my style.  But, your fate is in your own hands to a great extent.  Do good things; have good things happen to you, and I'll take retroactive credit.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Home and Away

Monday, September 15, 2014
Jews are considered People of the Book. These days, it is more typically People of the Newspaper, more particularly People of the New York Times. Therefore, you might understand the mixed emotions that accompanied the (ultimately unpublished) letter to the editor that I sent off this morning.

"I consider myself a careful reader of your newspaper, so I was confused by the following opening paragraph of an otherwise heartening story:

‘BERLIN — Thousands of Germans, many wrapped in Israeli flags, gathered at Berlin’s historic Brandenburg Gate on Sunday for a rally against anti-Semitism, which has flared up in Europe following Israel’s invasion of Gaza.’

I’ve read about the extensive damage done by the exchange of missiles, rockets and artillery by the contesting forces. However, I simply missed the news of an invasion of Gaza by Israel. When did you publish this story, which presumably was more than a one-day affair? Or, were you referring to the infiltration of Israel by Palestinians through tunnels under the border between Gaza and Israel? If so, haven’t you confused your proper nouns? Please clarify."

I had to check my notes to find that I had been to Hong Kong Station, 45 Bayard Street, before on August 10 2010, so long ago that I forgot. I wasn’t sorry that I returned. The bright, airy space had leaf green paint and tiles accenting the white interior, containing about 25 two-tops. The menu basically offers you the opportunity to create your own dish, choosing among 10 noodles or rice, 32 toppings (tofu, beef balls, fish skin, Spam, shiitake mushrooms, and so on) in one of 6 sauces or soups. The exhaustive possibilities exhausted me, and I chose one of a handful of organized efforts, spicy chicken fried rice ($7.25). It was very good, carefully cooked for me in the open food preparation area at the back of the restaurant. The spicy rice contained egg, small chicken chunks, pieces of chopped choi sum (poetically translated as Chinese flowering cabbage), and boiled peanuts. It was the sort of dish that would go well with a variety of 6 or 8 others on a table surrounded by hungry friends.

Joseph Berger, distinguished reporter for the New York Times and a fellow Feingoldian, is about to publish a book about the Hasidim, the very orthodox Jews who are both a mystery and an embarrassment to many (most?) other American Jews. After reading a short essay on the subject in yesterday’s paper, my anticipation of his book is heightened.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014
I went to my last Mets game of the season yesterday, and, too predictably, it ended the same as the first game that I attended this season, a one-run loss after they lead most of the game. I will soon face the test of my loyalty to lost causes when asked to renew my subscription to 20 or so ball games. This is the sixth losing season in a row for the Mets, all of which I’ve attended. However, Gil Glotzer, attorney to the stars, my faithful companion throughout this fruitless period, is relocating (not because of the Mets, it should be noted), leaving me to face the next drought alone. I must think long and hard about this.

Today, doctor-lawyer-rabbi Traube examined my kishkes from the inside while I was dispatched to Dreamland. He reported that all was essentially well with my GI system, even after eating haggis in Edinburgh, a fact that I kept from him.

I haven’t been in Illinois since July 2013, but the Greek Bookstore appears to be only a web site based in Chicago, not a physical presence. In any case, I received an alert this evening that someone, using my credit card, was trying to spend $125.55 there. No, I said, resulting in the cancellation of the card all together in light of its compromised position. Unfortunately, I have no information about the nature of the suspect purchase – poetry, pornography, Plato – and can only wonder how I was selected for this dubious transaction.

Thursday, September 18, 2014
For those, such as Stony Brook Steve, who worry, as taxpayers, that I may not be devoting my time and energy to public employment, allow me to note that this commentary (about Scotland’s independence vote) is being written before 9 AM, Eastern Daylight Time.

Today, Scotland votes on its independence, whether to leave the United Kingdom. Our trip to Scotland and England ended just one week ago and, while politics played no role in our scheduling, it was exciting to be in the midst of this historic event. It was especially interesting as the London political establishment woke up to the ineffectiveness of its campaign for continued unity, the No vote. While the political party dynamics involved are complex and ambiguous, the leadership of the two major parties realized that they had a lot to lose and were, according to the latest polls, losing. Their sudden devotion to their even funnier-talking brethren to the north was amusing at times, since an element in Scotland’s move towards independence is the benign neglect shown by Westminster (the shorthand for the British government) towards Scotland. It was even suggested that the announcement of the pregnancy of Kate Middleton, future Queen of England, was timed to evoke feelings of avuncular (what’s the word for auntiness?) pride throughout the land(s).

An interesting procedural note about this election: Voting is limited to physical residents of Scotland. A kilt-wearing, haggis-eating, bagpiper who moved to London from Glasgow weeks ago cannot vote, while any citizen of the European Union living in Scotland may vote. That includes Poles, Italians and Germans, for instance, since they might be expected to benefit or lose by the results of the election. Personally, as a graduate of CCNY, I would vote for independence, because Scotland, like New York City until the late 1960s, offers free college tuition, while England does not. The legacy of Scotland’s free tuition may not rival CCNY’s, but it is a building block for a better, more equal society.

Finally (at 8:57 AM), I predict a narrow victory for independence. See you tomorrow.

Friday, September 19, 2014
I was wrong about Scotland, but not too disappointed in the result. I believe in pluralism as an organizing principle of civil society. Living alongside someone different in relative peace and harmony is a substantial challenge and tests our values as a person and a people. That’s what marriage is about, after all.

There were already sounds of discontent with the prospect of an independent Scotland. Orkney and Shetland Islands, which voted overwhelmingly for remaining in the United Kingdom, threatened to leave an independent Scotland for many of the same reasons that 45% of the voters wanted Scotland to leave the United Kingdom. No doubt, some village or two on those islands might have been disgruntled, in turn, by incorporation into an autonomous region.

There is an evident gravitational pull among like-minded, ethnically-similar people. It’s just easier to understand and tolerate those whom you recognize as versions of yourself, at least on the outside. Fun, risk, frustration comes with moving beyond the similar and familiar. Breaking up homogeneous populations in Africa and the Middle East by the arbitrary imposition of borders resulted in turmoil that remains today. Minorities usually suffer at the hands of empowered majorities everywhere you look. However, Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite minority dominates the Syrian Sunni majority even as the Koch brothers attempt to rule their fellow citizens.

With increased mobility and the ultimate futility of trying to keep people within borders or settings that they find unbearable, the need for pluralism arises, even if undesired or unanticipated. Without going all Emma Lazarus, I think that the United States has done a better job than most other nations in coping with disparate populations, even though the ebbing of white, Christian power has been so disturbing to many Americans who mistake the accident of birth for virtue.

From the New York Times today: "Jackie Cain, who teamed with her husband, Roy Kral, to form probably the most famous vocal duo in jazz history, melding popular tunes and sophisticated harmonies for more than half a century, died on Monday at her home in Montclair, N.J. She was 86." They were wonderful performers, who recorded together for over 50 years. If you don't know their work, beg, borrow, buy, stream or download "Storyville Presents Jackie And Roy" (1955) (also released as "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most"), and anything else they did later. I'm partial to their "Sondheim" album (1982). Be warned, though -- you'll fall in love or more deeply in love with whomever is in the room listening with you.

Friday, September 12, 2014

UK and Us

Scottish Consensus
 [Click to enlarge]
Monday, September 8, 2014
This trip is strongly colored by memories. The main event for us was the 50th wedding anniversary of David and Kathleen (McConnell) Mervin, which was celebrated with a big party in their home community of Arnside, Cumbria, on the northwest coast of England. Along with Kathleen's three lovely sisters, I was the only other guest to have attended the wedding, held in Durham, New Hampshire, at the home of the president of the University of New Hampshire, who conveniently happened to be Kathleen's father.

Of the 70 or so guests this weekend in Arnside, I counted 4 adult Jews, several hundred percent more than can usually be found in Arnside or anywhere closer than 100 miles.

We arrived in London yesterday afternoon, and checked into Fleming's Mayfair, 7 Half Moon Street, reputedly the oldest hotel in London. Even if it proves to be a Johnny-come-lately, just being situated on Half Moon Street qualifies it as a place to stay. However, memories powered my selection of this hotel. In March 2002, America's Favorite Epidemiologist, with me in tow, brought her son and daughter to London to celebrate their upcoming graduation from law school and medical school, respectively. The busyness that would immediately follow the end of their formal studies required us to take this trip a few months early. And, sure enough, we stayed in Fleming's Mayfair, one entire renovation before its current manifestation, but thoroughly pleasant at the time. We saw plays; had nice meals; met dear New Jersey friends, also on vacation, for tea at the Connaught, where Bibi Netanyahu was hustling a blonde in the lounge, not yet burdened with the mantle of leadership.

I don't know how Bibi made out, but I recall the trip as one of the best that I've ever taken, the hotel, the diversions, and, mostly, the company.

We spent a few hours in the Victoria & Albert Museum today. It has remarkable collections of stuff. I spent much of the time in the large area devoted to Islamic art. I realized that I enjoyed it far more than the typical array of pre-Impressionist European art, because it ain't churchy, no saints, no martyrs, no angels, no saviours. Just beautiful shapes and colors adorning walls and clothing and ceramics and rugs. I imagine that Islam, like classic Judaism, eschews the graven image, and thank God for that. However, after looking around for quite some time, I had to ask (myself), is there current Islamic art of this caliber? Or, an even more difficult question, where is the spirit that produced such beauty? Islam once swept over much of the known world with the power of its message. What does it bring today?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014
We went to see the Book of Mormon last night, and cannot help but agree that it is a great show. It was even greater by virtue of only costing £52.25 a ticket for orchestra seats, about 1/3 of New York prices. (Note that the issue of the 2 extra tickets that, at first, we were not allowed to buy, and then could not get rid of, was resolved in our favor. Thanks for asking.) Of course, waiting on line at the box office to pick up our tickets, we were hardly surprised to be standing next to Nicolai V. and his wife, the only two people from Bulgaria that we know. Why not?

For all the noise that I made last week about Zephyr Teachout as my preferred candidate for governor of New York State, I find myself comfortably installed in downtown England on the day of the Democratic primary election. I hope that the margin of victory/loss is more than one vote. Mostly, I hope that Andrew Cuomo, the incumbent, realizes that many voters took his promise to deal with corruption in Albany somewhat seriously, more seriously than he has.

I am facing another dilemma, that might last longer than today's electoral oversight. I've taught Boaz, born on the day that the New York Giants won Super Bowl Zwei und Fertzig, that there are two professional football teams to root for -- the New York Giants and whoever is playing the Dallas Cowboys. Well, the Dallas Cowboys have picked up Michael Sams -- the Michael Sams -- after he was cut by the St. Louis Rams. I hope that he succeeds as a professional football player, as long as it is in a losing cause.

We had lunch today with David and Katherine Brodie, who hosted a delightful dinner for us Sunday night, to which David allegedly contributed more than commentary. They also went to the theater with us last night, qualifying as stalwart friends and companions. We ate at the Capital, 22-24 Basil Street, an exquisite small hotel very near Harrod's, where my young bride and I have eaten a couple of times in the past, always feeling and being treated as lottery winners. If I were to win, I might actually be able to stay there overnight, not just showing up for lunch. Just showing up for lunch, however, resulted in one of the finest afternoons that we have spent in ages. The Capital has a three-course lunch for £27 and worth every nickel. I had quail as an appetizer and then duck, sticking to the fowl side of the menu. Dessert was a poached pear with small scoops of stem ginger (not stem cell, as I suggested) ice cream and dark chocolate mousse. A few glasses of rosé helped wash everything down and kept the conversation going for 2 1/2 hours.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014
By 8:30 last night, the physical effects of our wonderful lunch had subsided, so we ventured forth into Chinatown, an area in London that has remained pretty compact over the years compared to the vast expansion of New York's Chinatown, not to say anything about the emergence of other Chinatowns in Brooklyn and Queens. We went to Canton Restaurant, 11 Newport Place, the first London Chinese restaurant that I ever went to, 29 years ago. We didn't order much, sharing Thai style fish (£8.80) and egg fried rice (£2.80). The small portion of fish consisted of deep-fried fingerlings, tasteless themselves, but served in a delicious sweet and spicy sauce. The fried rice was not cooked with soy sauce, leaving it white. Yet, together, the two dishes made for a satisfying snack. Canton was the place where I first ate Singapore chow fun (called ho fun here), a turning point in my life.

While many British people speak funny, they are often eloquent, even poetic in their utterances. However, I've noticed even before this trip, by watching British crime shows on PBS, cable and Netflix, that the British are as promiscuous in their use of the word Brilliant as we are with Awesome. It often sounds so inappropriate, having nothing to do with a person, place or thing's index of refraction. Also, British folks of almost any age seem unashamed to use Brilliant, while I think that Americans begin to limit their use of Awesome as they approach full height and weight.

The upcoming vote on Scotland's future has been the first or second most prominent news story ever since we arrived. In fact, with the young cancer victim reunited with his family after his parents were temporarily jailed for removing him from a hospital without permission, the front pages now are devoted to the fate of the United Kingdom. An interesting byproduct of this situation, regardless of its outcome, is the strengthened interest in autonomy for other groups -- the Basques and Catalonians in Spain, the Walloons in Belgium, the Kurds embedded in Syria, Iraq and Turkey, for example. May I propose something closer to home, a reconsideration of the Civil War, allowing the Confederate States to go their own way. I, for one, will not miss the whole Bible thumpin', gun totin', stock car racin', science denyin', gerund mispronouncin' lot. Of course, I would grant Cindy and David McMullen compassionate asylum before I line our side of the Mason-Dixon Line with specially-trained Mexican, Honduran and Guatemalan border guards.

Thursday, September 11, 2014
It was admittedly a strange day to be flying into New York, but it met our needs otherwise. The flight was thoroughly uneventful, noticeably less crowded than the flight to Edinburgh. We got to Heathrow by simply riding the Piccadilly Line, with a station three blocks from the hotel, probably the easiest (cheapest) trip to an airport that I can recall.

Friday, September 12, 2014
Back home and safely in the hands of those nearest and dearest to me, the waiters at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Over There

Monday, September 1, 2014
America's Favorite Epidemiologist is #1 in my book in almost all imaginable categories.  However, I believe that she must defer to Zephyr Teachout in the area of unusual names.  At first, I thought that this was a child of the late Frank Zappa.  Then, I learned that Ms. Teachout is a Fordham University law professor, which places her place of employment just a few hundred yards from the Palazzo di Gotthelf.  However, it is her proximity to the governor's mansion in Albany, New York that interests me.  She is running against incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic nomination. 

While Cuomo has had a successful record overall, in my eyes, as governor, I plan to vote for Teachout.  I don't think that I'll be the only progressive (pinko, limousine liberal, America-hating, warrior against Christmas) Democrat taking that path.  I recognize that Cuomo, as any politician faced with the realities of governing and reelection, has had to take stands that I disfavor.  However, his conduct surrounding his signature issue -- corruption in Albany -- has been appalling.  After appointing a commission to deal with the issue, possibly no greater here than anywhere else, but here nevertheless, he retreated quickly and publicly when the group opened an inquiry that might have led to activities near to the governor, although not the governor himself. 

Last year, Cuomo said, "Anything they want to look at, they can look at — me, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the comptroller, any senator, any assemblyman.”  When disbanding the commission preemptively a few months ago, in rhetoric that evoked Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton, he said, “A commission appointed by and staffed by the executive cannot investigate the executive.”  So, the winds of reform that we anticipated with Cuomo must now come, if at all, from a Zephyr.
We are putting aside domestic election concerns for the time being as we set off tonight for Scotland, where a vote on independence is scheduled for September 18th.  One commentator wrote that "a significant number of Scottish people have a dream where statehood, social justice and cultural self-confidence fit together into a clear and popular project." This seems to combine disparate elements that are also found in our national politics: opposition to a remote big government that is unwilling or unable to effect economic reform.  I venture that, in the US today, the left touts social justice and the right touts culture.  Do we need Woody Guthrie to have an effective blend of the two?
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
We arrived in Edinburgh this morning and our hotel took pains to get us into a freshly-cleaned room without too much delay.  The flight was uneventful, but I didn't find the skies of United that friendly, rather more dispassionate and business-like.  In contrast to the two other trans-Atlantic flights that we took recently (and the easiest to recall), to Sicily and Portugal, United was notably ungenerous in small but telling regards.  Alcoholic beverages had to be purchased; no free wine or beer.  And, the beverage service came with nothing, not a peanut, not a pretzel, not a Pepperidge Farm goldfish.  This might seem like the least consequential matters to complain about, but we paid over a thousand bucks a ticket.  For that much money, throw in a small bottle of Chateau Schwartz, or a fraction of an ounce of potato chips. 

We are staying on Bread Street, a central location in Edinburgh, but it is sort of a misnomer.  Although only two blocks long, it might be more appropriately named Rice Street, because the otherwise respectable neighborhood is rife with Chinese, Indian, Mexican and miscellaneous ethnic restaurants, and several "gentlemen's clubs," for which I don't qualify.  However, our first lunch this afternoon was at the White Hart Inn, 34 The Greenmarket, reputedly Edinburgh's oldest bar.  It had haggis on the menu, but I settled for steak and ale pie, a very modest, but satisfying, dip into local cuisine.  I intend to try haggis for sure, once my head, stomach and mind all agree to meet in the same time zone. is coming in loud and clear over here. That's how I learned today that Eric Cantor, former leader of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, rejected by voters in his party's primary, has taken a job at a Wall Street investment bank as vice chairman and managing director.  According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, he will receive a base salary of $400,000 and an initial cash payment of $400,000.  The firm is also granting Mr. Cantor $1 million in shares that vest over a five-year period.  The Wall Street Journal commented that Cantor will be "learning the investment banking business."  It's such good news that American workers are being afforded job training opportunities, when unemployment affects so many households.  This puts an end to the rumors that he would enter show business reviving the song and dance routines of his grandfather Eddie Cantor, although that was a prospect that I personally looked forward to.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
I read on that "[t]he trend away from classes based on reading and listening passively to lectures, and toward a more active role for students, has its most profound effects on black students and those whose parents did not go to college, a new study of college students shows."  This was the genius of CCNY, at least in the rosy past.  All of our classes were taught by the Professor, in front of a group of 20-30 grubby kids from the four boroughs.  (I never met a kid from Staten Island at CCNY in my four years.)  Not all teachers took a participative approach to the subject, but the most memorable did.  That accounts for the loyalty that a group of us display towards Stanley Feingold, of the Government Department, more than 50 years after our graduation.  He worked the class; he did not address the class.  Some students cowered and tried to avoid his attention, but many of us couldn't wait, in the words of Rumpole, to get up on our hind legs and offer our thoughts -- baked, half-baked and sometimes still in raw ingredients.  Of course, in those days CCNY was not considered a research institution and the model of the Great Mind surrounded by eager graduate students, occasionally entering the lecture hall, did not apply.  And we were so lucky for that.

We took a tour of the Scottish parliament at midday.  The building is new, befitting the emergence of the parliament about 15 years ago.  The architecture tries a little too hard to evoke images of land and sea, and transparency in the conduct of affairs.  However, the actual legislative chamber was quite interesting and a model of efficiency.  It resembles a very up-to-date law school lecture hall, roomy, airy, equipped with sophisticated electronics.  The obvious contrast is with the British House of Commons, crowded, noisy, only seeming to lack tankards of ale and spitoons.  Of course, the US Congress also meets in relative comfort, supported by modern technology, but that hasn't prevented legislative constipation.
Tonight, we ate at Kama Sutra, 105-109 Lothian Road, two doors off of Bread Street, an Indian restaurant that deserves a better name.  There are many dozens of Indian restaurants in Edinburgh, but in our wanderings for the last few days, the local population seems to fit the stereotype of the rosy-cheeked, ginger-haired Scot, so Indian food must have passed into general circulation.  We shared an onion bhaji appetizer (£4.25) and I made a meal of three other appetizers, lamb chop adriki, 3 medium chops marinated in spices and yoghurt (£5.95); lahsuni tangri, 2 chicken drumsticks also marinated in spices and yoghurt (£4.25); and 4 grilled scallops (£4.75).  All of them were good, and more or less worth the price converted to good old American dollars, at $1.65 a pound.  I had a lot to eat, for sure, which deterred me from going 5 blocks in the wrong direction to an artisanal gelateria, after dinner, that we passed earlier, that had fig ice cream, among other interesting flavors. 
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Haggis was right under my nose, it turns out, a staple of the hotel's breakfast buffet.  I may have been too busy with the fresh croissants to notice until this morning.  I put a scoop alongside my scrambled eggs and found that it resembled a minced hash, just a tad wetter.  Haggis will not play a role on my vote on Scottish independence.  There are, apparently, bigger fish to fry, which reminds me that we haven't had fish and chips yet, although, unlike haggis, it will be available as we head south into England.

Our 24-hour hop-on, hop-off bus tour lasted until late morning and we headed out for one last loop of local attractions.  Working backwards, after a fashion, we wound up at Edinburgh Castle, the very foundation of the city and its most popular tourist attraction, as the 20-minute wait to buy a ticket attested.  At one of the highest points of the city, on a long-dormant volcano, it has a history of royal and military occupation, most of which is completely lost on an American.

Dinner tonight was at the Galvin Brasserie, in the Caledonia Hotel, once a grand railway station, now repurposed as an even grander hotel, with several dining rooms.  We had a lovely meal, but skipped dessert in order to walk over to Affogato, 36 Queensferry Street, for that fig gelato.  Of course, there was none left from yesterday, so I had to make do with Valhrona chocolate and hazelnut, while my young bride had coconut and salted caramel.  Two scoops were £2.80, a bargain by local standards.  Looking into any retail store around here makes New York look like John's Bargain Store.  I told Johannes, a young German working in a bookstore up the street for the summer, who has never been to the US in spite of near-perfect English, to take an empty suitcase to New York and fill it with Levi's at £20 a pair and sell them at £50 to his eager friends.  The result will be one all-expense paid vacation.
Friday, September 5, 2014
We leave Edinburgh today on a three-hour train ride to the village of Arnside, Cumbria, on the northwest coast of England.  This spot is the focus of our trip, to mark the 50th wedding anniversary of Kathleen McConnell and David Mervin, joined as graduate students at Cornell University, in my presence. 
One last observation on Edinburgh.  This week, the first week in September, several restaurants are promoting their Christmas parties and dinners.  Fortunately, there are no trees, wreaths or ornaments on display, yet, but this reminded me of the idea that one ages differently during space travel, an application of Einstein's theory of relativity.  It seems that in Edinburgh, three months pass at a much faster rate than in the rest of the world (except where we are waging a war on Christmas, as Fox News has detected).