Friday, November 21, 2014

Good Meals Amid Bad News

Monday, November 17, 2014
Where were you on Saturday night?  I was sent back half a century while listening to the New York City Labor Chorus singing of a once proud labor union movement and a once vital civil rights movement.  Even after such a long time, the words (often quite simple and repetitive) of We Shall Not Be Moved, Which Side Are You On?, If I had a Hammer and We Shall Overcome were right back on my lips.  Now, unions are, at most, an afterthought in our economic system, and a smirking majority of the United States Supreme Court views racism as an historic relic, a relic that, with the obvious exception of Clarence Thomas, never seemed to have interested them before.

The 1,200 seat auditorium seemed full mostly of my contemporaries and our elders, with walkers and canes in abundance.  Were we the conscience of an increasingly-avaricious society or  merely a bunch of frustrated fools whose time has passed?

The lyrics of Which Side Are You On? always interested me.  It was written in 1931, in the course of a coal miners strike in a region that saw labor strife on and off for over 40 years.  
They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there;
You'll either be a union man,
Or a thug for J. H. Blair.

A contemporary version might unmelodiously go:
You'll either be a union man,
Or a thug, attorney, crisis manager, publicist, accountant, media consultant, lobbyist, or portfolio manager for J. H. Blair.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014
The terrible news from Israel this morning is the attack on worshipers in a Jerusalem synagogue by two Palestinians using a gun, knives and axes.  Four Jews were killed, including three Americans.  In order to empirically distinguish this act from anything resembling sanity, the synagogue is located in a section of West Jerusalem that has been occupied by Jews at least since 1948, and several kilometers from the nearest edge of Arab East Jerusalem.  I believe that any attempt to explain this act as anything but criminal insanity would itself be insane.  However, more disturbing to me is the caption under a photograph on the NYTimes web site: “Supporters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Gaza celebrated the attack on Tuesday.”  Tell me why such behavior doesn’t warrant harsh reprisal.  Demonstrating how patient, how rational, how peaceful, how tolerant we could be seems to accomplish little, if anything, in this conflict.  

By contrast, lunch was peaceful and joyful as I had dim sum at Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, with Fumiko and Stanley Feingold, and four CCNY classmates, as an extension of our periodic get togethers when Stanley visits New York.  We shared 18 plates of 15 items.  With a generous tip, it cost $14 per person.  It might have been less except for some uncontrolled Diet Coke guzzling (and you know who you are).  I wouldn’t want it repeated, but a couple of vegetable dishes were very good.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
The Boyz Club convened at 27 Sunshine Sea Food Restaurant, 46 Bowery, the former HSF.  This gave me the opportunity to compare two major dim sum joints back-to-back.  Jing Fong is enormous, running an entire city block from Elizabeth Street to the Bowery, one flight above street level.  27 Sunshine actually sits directly beneath, a half block long, entrance on the Bowery.  Jing Fong is vividly Chinese red, seemingly awaiting only acrobats and jugglers to complete the festive atmosphere.  27 Sunshine, befitting its name, is pastel yellow almost everywhere you look.  Jing Fong has a lot of Chinese patrons; 27 Sunshine has nothing but (our table aside).  Accordingly, it is a bit easier to understand or be understood at Jing Fong, assuming you haven’t mastered your Mandarin.

We had 9 guys at lunch and the food came and went so fast that I was unable to get a count on the number of dishes (and, unlike Jing Fong, the check wasn’t detailed).  We later estimated 30 plates, including duplicate items.  The bill for this was a staggering $85 upon which I heaped a very large tip, so that each of us owed $12.25.  Jing Fong had a slightly more interesting collection of items, but 27 Sunshine’s scallop dish almost drew a standing ovation.  On the way out, I sought to learn the origin of the name, 27 Sunshine Seafood Restaurant, located at 46 Bowery.  A managerial type patiently explained to me that 27 means 46 in Chinese, or I think that’s what he said.

Thursday, November 20, 2014
Last night, I went to the Jewish Theological Seminary to hear Mike Kelly discuss his new book, The Bus on Jaffa Road, the story of a suicide bombing in Jerusalem in 1996, killing 26.  Among the dead were Sara Duker and Matthew Eisenfeld, a young American couple.  Sara was a classmate and friend of Mayris’s children.  She died just a month after I met Mayris, so my early memories of our romance are combined with sad recollections of this tragic event.  Before the book talk, a study area of JTS’s library was dedicated to the memory of the young couple; Matt was a rabbinical student there.  

Four rabbis spoke at the dedication, two on behalf of JTS and two friends and classmates of Matt’s.  I didn’t take notes, but I tried to hold onto words and phrases that were repeated by various speakers about Sara and Matt.  I heard: hope – peace – love – Torah – learn – God’s image – giving – wisdom.  

Lunch today, although not with a crowd, was still special.  Jay Stanley, policy analyst for the ACLU based in Washington, was in New York for a periodic meeting.  Jay is the son of Charlotte Stanley, the flower of Cheshire County, New Hampshire, and John Langley Stanley, my graduate school roommate, taken from us far too early.  Jay, in his father’s footsteps, likes spicy, exotic foods, so we went to Xi’an Famous Foods, 67 Bayard Street, one of 5 Manhattan locations for this successful enterprise.  Since my last visit, the tiny space has been reconfigured to give a little more sitting room, but don’t expect to host the Cousins’ Club there anytime soon.  

We each ordered a spicy cumin lamb burger ($3.50) and then shared stewed oxtail noodles ($9.50) and buckwheat cold noodles ($5.25).  Each was spicy in its own wonderful way.  The noodles could only be eaten with your head inches above the place, to keep the delicious sauces nearer to your mouth than your clothing.  The hand-pulled oxtail noodles were very long and wide; the buckwheat noodles were like fat lo mein.  We were both delighted by the food quality.  Unfortunately, Jay had to rush back to an afternoon meeting, so he refused my suggestion that we stop at the Häagen-Dazs shop at the corner of Bayard Street and Mott Street, for, what I consider, the appropriate finish to a superior Chinese meal.   

Friday, November 21, 2014
For those of you who did not have the Washington Post delivered to your front door this morning, here is David Webber's valuable commentary.

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