Saturday, December 26, 2015

Winding Down

Monday, December 21, 2015
Here is a contemporary approach to communications, inspired by the venerable Mad Libs™.  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/12/18/nyregion/emoji-your-holiday-card.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=Moth-Visible&moduleDetail=inside-nyt-region-3&module=inside-nyt-region&region=inside-nyt-region&WT.nav=inside-nyt-region

Before Mel Brooks made very funny movies and broke Broadway records with “The Producers,” he had become immortal with his 2000-year-old man routines, recorded with Carl Reiner originally in 1961.  If you have never heard them, beg, borrow or steal copies, conveniently boxed as The 2000 Year Old Man: The Complete History (Amazon.com @ $32.99).  Besides getting an archival copy for yourself, consider giving one to a desperately ill person who retains good hearing.

I believe that the 2000-year-old man not only provided us great amusement, but profound insight into human behavior as well.  In many instances, he identified fear as the basis for our conduct.  On transportation: “an animal would growl, you'd go two miles in a minute.  Fear would be the main propulsion.”  
On singing: “Saying ‘a lion is eating my foot off’ didn't get nearly the attention that singing it did.”
On handshaking: Shaking hands began as a way of finding out if a man had a rock or a knife.  
On dancing: By dancing a man kept another person’s hands and feet busy, so he could not get hit or kicked.
On marriage: A man needed a woman to watch out behind him to make sure an animal didn’t creep up on him. 

Today, fear continues to shape our behavior.  I cite:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/19/us/lesson-on-islam-shuts-down-virginia-school-district.html?module=WatchingPortal&region=c-column-middle-span-region&pgType=Homepage&action=click&mediaId=wide&state=standard&contentPlacement=2&version=internal&contentCollection=www.nytimes.com&contentId=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2015%2F12%2F19%2Fus%2Flesson-on-islam-shuts-down-virginia-school-district.html&eventName=Watching-article-click

In Virginia, home of Patrick Henry, a school district shut down because “Students in a world geography class at Riverheads High School in Staunton, Va., had been asked to try their hands at copying a passage known as the Shahada, or declaration of faith in Islam.”  The poor, dumb teacher meant it to “give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy,” not even telling the kids the meaning of the words.  While the teacher should probably have had the students copy a falafel recipe, the fear shown by some parents is notable.  

Mel Brooks proves that we can't go back far enough to find a world not governed by fear.  Today, Syrian refugees are the demons du jour.  Home of the Brave, we ain’t.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015
I was fortunate to be joined at lunch today by the Stanley family, Papa Jay, Momma Meg, Ben, Jack and Lucy, the latter three not yet of voting age, but as sensible as most of the announced presidential candidates, or more so.  We went to Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, that festive dim sum palace, an experience new to the younger guests.  I am pleased to report that no Yucks were heard during the meal, and all of us put away our fair share (adjusted for age and weight) of the food wheeled up to our table.

After lunch, I went to a white elephant party held by the more social segment of my department.  Not only was I able to foist off a totally unwanted, unneeded (although generously offered) gift from an earlier holiday season, but I came away with a box of Godiva chocolates, which may turn out to be my next gift to you.

While many conservative adults continue to fear anything that they don’t understand, “progressive youth” are overreacting in their own narrow-minded way.  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/22/us/oberlin-takes-culture-war-to-the-dining-hall.html

Students at this famously liberal college “are accusing the campus dining department and Bon Appétit Management Company, the main dining vendor, of a litany of offenses that range from cultural appropriation to cultural insensitivity.”  Ironically, the student complaints include black students wanting more fried chicken, while others are dissatisfied with the quality of the sushi.  “When you’re cooking a country’s dish for other people, including ones who have never tried the original dish before, you’re also representing the meaning of the dish as well as its culture,” Tomoyo Joshi, a student from Japan [said].  “So if people not from that heritage take food, modify it and serve it as ‘authentic,’ it is appropriative.”  I imagine that I might have cause to rail against most bagel sellers in the US.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015
The Upper West Side's Power Couple took off for a visit to the second and third generations in Massachusetts this morning.  Our path allowed us to have lunch at Nardelli's Grinder Shoppe, 540 Plank Road, Waterbury, CT.  I was predictably delighted with a roast beef sandwich, fully loaded with everything except tomatoes ($6.50, supposedly a half, but large enough to satisfy me), and a bag of Herr's Creamy Dill Pickle potato chips, impossible to find in my usual haunts.  A welcome addition to the menu was Nardelli's own brand diet root beer, quite delicious.  This was notable because, just three nights earlier, on the way to a Rangers game at Madison Square Garden with my cousin Michael Goldenberg, we met at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 209 West 38th Street, never to be confused with Ben's Best Kosher Delicatessen, 96-40 Queens Boulevard, Rego Park. While I thoroughly enjoyed my corned beef/pastrami combo on rye ($16.99), I was surprised and disappointed to learn that Ben's had no Dr. Brown's diet black cherry soda, in fact no diet Dr. Brown's was on hand.  What kind of doctor is that?  A floor manager, so skinny that I asked him if he ever ate here, told us that Dr. Brown's had not supplied Ben's with diet soda for some time.  Obviously, I'm fated to bring Nardelli's and Ben's together.  

 "The Typical American Lives Only 18 Miles From Mom," is a headline to get your attention.  The NewYork Times published this interesting study on mobility, which contradicts the picture of the aggressive American seeking opportunity throughout the land.  http://nyti.ms/1SbuiLY

This article reminds me of a study cited (conducted?) by Andrew Hacker over 50 years ago, which demonstrated that CEO's of Fortune 500 companies lived much further from their birthplaces than US Senators.  Staying close to home was a better base for building a political than a business career, especially when top companies cluster in certain locations, while Senate seats are inherently dispersed.  For whatever it's worth, I now live just under 12 miles from my parent's last residence, although I am, believe it or not, neither a CEO or a US Senator.  

Friday, December 18, 2015

Good, Better, Best?

Monday, December 14, 2015
Normally, I would rush to promote a list of the purported 25 "Best Fine Dining Restaurants" in the world, e.g., http://www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Restaurants-a_Mode.expanded

This list has some interesting contents. Of the 25, only 2 are in the United States, but 3 in the United Kingdom; 3 in France, but also 3 in Spain. Upon examination, however, I found some questionable logic. Bouley, 163 Duane Street, is the only New York restaurant included. This is at least its third location that I recall, all within one city block. The spot that I remember visiting twice is now a bank branch. I don’t fault Bouley its designation, but, in another current Trip Advisor compilation, it does not even rank number 1 in New York City. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurants-g60763-New_York_City_New_York.html

Digging deeper, I found that Trip Advisor’s New York City list placed Lincoln Square Steak, 208 West 70th Street, less than 11 months old, third best overall in the whole city of New York with 629 reviews, while the Palm, 837 Second Avenue, my personal favorite steakhouse, open since 1926, placed 1,232 on the list with 314 reviews. Sorry, Charlie. That doesn’t make sense; maybe Lincoln Square (which I have not visited, although I frequently went to the two restaurants that preceded it at that site) has better food than the Palm, but I refuse to believe that it honestly accumulated twice as many reviews although operating 88 fewer years. That means that two customers each day that it has been open wrote a review, and a favorable one at that. Two couples that I know have been there and they differed sharply in their opinion of Lincoln Square, hardly surprising for any restaurant in its early days.

Very important reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/opinion/the-words-that-killed-medieval-jews.html?action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=MostPopularFB&version=Full&region=Marginalia&src=me&pgtype=article

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
It is 62 degrees at lunch time on December 15th and I found a new joint. AA Noodle, 45 Bayard Street, replaced Hong Kong Station and the cuisine moved much closer to Tokyo. The space is high and bright, with chlorophyl green touches on a creamy white background. There are 20 two tops, at least half of them occupied while I was present. Ramen is featured, along with noodle dishes wet and dry. Two friendly men stand in the window pulling noodles.


All the food was good. I ordered a grilled lamb skewer and a grilled beef skewer, both $1.75. Each had been rubbed with some spices before grilling; I recognized cumin. I also had chicken dumplings; a small order of 6 for $2.49. They had been boiled and then lightly sautéed. 
"Best" lists proliferate at this time of year, and I can’t keep away from them. The New York Times produces three lists for best movies of 2015, one for each of its three staff reviewers. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/movies/best-movies-2015.html?hpw&rref=movies&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well

While none of the reviewers is able to stick to ten selections, their top tens show some similarity. There is almost perfect consistency though between me and them. I have seen only one of the movies that made any of their top ten lists, The Kindergarten Teacher, an interesting but very annoying Israeli film.

For best books of 2015, the New York Times Book Review has one list – http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/12/02/books/review/best-books-of-2015.html

The daily staff reviewers then each have their own list – http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/11/books/the-top-books-of-2015.html

In spite of the many works listed, I am even further out of touch with the books than the movies. By the time that I work my way through the daily and Sunday newspapers and each week’s New Yorker magazine, attend a dozen Rangers games and another dozen Mets games each year, watch a far greater number of their televised games, go to 20 or so theatrical performances, eat, sleep and go to work daily, the opportunity to read a book has almost disappeared from my life. I have a plan, though.

If you have lost touch with your inner Che Guevara, read this story about wretched excess and gaming the system in Los Angeles real estate. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/15/us/shell-company-bel-air-mansion.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Forget for a moment any concerns about taste or judgment in home design and furnishing, and consider the macro-political dimension. These endeavors are conducted behind the shield of shell companies, organized as limited liability corporations (LLCs). Our beloved United States Supreme Court has given corporations almost unfettered access to the political process – money is speech, speak as loud as you can. But, these ersatz "citizens" (Citizens United) abandon their "personality" at the first sign of trouble, or accountability for the trouble they create. Read the story; be disgusted.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Today, the New York Times offers it list of the top 10 new New York restaurants. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/16/dining/best-restaurants-in-nyc.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=mini-moth&region=top-stories-below&WT.nav=top-stories-below

The virtue of this list, unlike the typical top top list, is the relative humility of several choices – only 4 out of 10 offer fixed meals. One place is actually a hamburger joint, although BE WARNED, the hamburgers are vegetarian.

Further pushing the modesty agenda, the New York Times also lists the 10 best local cheap joints for the year. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/16/dining/best-cheap-eats-nyc-2015.html?action=click&contentCollection=Food&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

This group is all over the ethnic map: Caribbean, Thai, Japanese, Malaysian, Mexican, Venezuelan, Indian, French. In other words, typical New York.

Another typical New York manifestation is honorific street namings. Care to guess the distance between Al Jolson Way and Billie Holiday Place? Or, where is Bob Marley Boulevard? Thanks to Gilbert Tauber, a retired city planner, you can find the location of hundreds of gratuitously labeled New York City locations. http://nycstreets.info/

Thursday, December 17, 2015
In the past, I was thrilled to hear lectures by the great scholars Raymond Aron and Isaiah Berlin. Boy, that's smart, I thought. It was so long ago, I can only remember that Berlin spoke about Joseph de Maistre and the origins of fascism, but can't even guess at Aron's topic. More recently, I admired the erudition and delivery of Rabbi Ethan Tucker talking about the shifting views on Jewish lineage. But today's New York Times crossword puzzle is maybe as smart as any one of them.

Picture this -- going down, the parallel answers to two clues side-by-side have adjacent squares containing the letters d-i-e. Going across, the d-i-e d-i-e squares have to be read as dice, as in Pride and Prejudice or Candice Bergen. How about that?

Friday, December 18, 2015
Nearing year end, I was able to find another new restaurant when I went to lunch with Marty the Super Clerk.  Gunbae Tribeca, 67 Murray Street, is a very attractive Korean restaurant with about 20 solid wooden tables holding a grill at the center to prepare "Korean BBQ."  Above each grill is an aluminum tube that stretches down to vacuum the smoke away. 

We made simpler choices, sharing an excellent seafood pancake ($10.95) containing scallop, shrimp, calamari and scallions.  Marty had Dduk Be Gi Bulgogi (marinated rib eye, shitake mushroom, glass noodles served in beef broth) with brown rice for $13.95.  I had Jap Che (stir fried glass noodles with rib eye, yellow squash, onion, carrot, shitake mushroom & spinach) ($11.95).  Quite delicious.  A good ending to the 50th week of the year. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Sidewalks Of New York

Monday, December 7, 2015
Open Table is a convenient web site, allowing you to make restaurant reservations filtered by cuisine, location and time. It also has its own reviewing system and it just released the top 100 American restaurants, according to its participants.
http://www.opentable.com/m/best-restaurants-in-america-for-2015/

Given the geographic breadth of the list (Charleston, South Carolina to Paia, Hawaii), it’s no surprise that I missed the top 10 entirely. As I have noted before, best restaurant lists these days are dominated by joints offering fixed meals, usually in the low three figure price range. Seven of Open Table’s top ten operate that way, whether offering sushi, Italian or French food, or an American "multi-taste Grazing, Rooting, Pecking menu."  Mother Ruth Gotthelf had it right all along. One night it was her divine salmon croquettes with spaghetti; another night lamb chops with mashed potatoes; Friday night chicken. You also did not tip when getting your coat back.

When the top 100 list is examined, we find that 22 states are unrepresented; maybe that might be expected for Alaska, but how about Iowa where all those Republicans have been spending so much time before the caucus scheduled for February 1, 2016. You would think that Mike Huckabee or Ben Carson, after a weary day on the campaign trail, deserves to sit down to a hearty plate of Sea Scallops Ceviche with Persian Cucumber, Radishes, Sea Lettuce, Finger Lime, White Sturgeon Caviar, or Sweet potato and yam gnocchi, bacon, maple, pecan, pomegranate, and brown butter, or even Malted wheat malloreddus with cotechino, as found at some of the top joints.

My diversity initiative has stalled. My calls have gone unanswered by the Patels, the Caseys, the Ramirezes, the Leungs, the Gardinos and the Holmqvists. Therefore, we went with the Schneiders to see Fiddler on the Roof on Saturday night. It was a very good production; Danny Burstein does a fine job as Tevye, on stage much of the time, and the focus of the story. In any case, it's almost impossible to knock Fiddler on the Roof, and I too could barely resist singing along to the familiar tunes. How ethnocentric of me.

In case you did not attend Stuyvesant High School, here is a list of the 99 next best public high schools in the United States:
https://k12.niche.com/rankings/public-high-schools/best-overall/

Tuesday, December 8, 2015
113 over 78. I was surprised that my blood pressure was so low given the state of the world. But, hours spent with the estimable Michael Perskin, M.D., showed that my physical condition, at least, was quite healthy and the ravages of time have not begun to seriously ravage. As a reward, I mostly ate ice cream and potato chips for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Michelle K., a lovely and talented co-worker gave me a holiday gift today, the famous Collin Street Bakery of Corsicana, Texas "Original Deluxe Fruitcake." This outfit sells about 1.5 million fruitcakes a year, mostly by mail order. The business, founded in 1896, is so successful that its former corporate accountant was sentenced to 10 years in prison three months ago for embezzling $16.7 million dollars.

In addition to her general kindness, Michelle gave me the fruitcake because I recognized and enjoyed it last year at an office holiday party, when apparently no one else did. I admit this in spite of the insistence by Calvin Trillin, the greatest philosopher of our time, that there is only one fruitcake, which is shipped from person to person each Christmas so no one has to eat it. He espoused this view at least as far back as 1981. Cf. https://books.google.com/books?id=3iwEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA138&lpg=PA138&dq=fruitcake+and+calvin+trillin&source=bl&ots=RAFkZvRIam&sig=dcYUV58glPGhk5ee1g2oGHBTHUI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjkmuyNms_JAhXDbD4KHYutACoQ6AEISTAH#v=onepage&q=fruitcake%20and%20calvin%20trillin&f=false 

You might be interested in where Katherine Hepburn got her chocolates. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/nyregion/mondel-chocolates-shop-in-manhattan.html?&moduleDetail=section-news-3&action=click&contentCollection=N.Y.%20%2F%20Region&region=Footer&module=MoreInSection&version=WhatsNext&contentID=WhatsNext&pgtype=article

She and I lived only three blocks apart for many years, but I was surprised to learn where she went for chocolates because it was far removed from our neighborhood, Second Avenue and East 49th Street-Turtle Bay vs. West 114th Street and Broadway-Columbia University. New York City, in spite of the size of its population and geographic scope, has really been a collection of neighborhoods, although that may be changing with the onslaught of development (gentrification). I certainly don’t automatically oppose the leveling of nasty old buildings and construction on junk-filled lots, but I am concerned about the disappearance of low-rise, reasonable-rent housing and the small businesses that serviced the residents, rich and poor.

I think that we can be spared the opening of one more macaron café when it becomes very difficult to find a freshly-baked rye bread. And, the very-occasional residents of the luxury housing that has recently sprouted in Manhattan are not the type to go strolling to the corner candy store to pick up their newspaper, or to take their clothes to the dry cleaners. At least, the old rich criminals who populated the better addresses seemed to be part of their neighborhoods, while the new rich criminals (many foreign-born, but not the object of D.T.’s scorn) connect only to a patch of sidewalk between building lobby and curb, where their limousine awaits.

I have to tell you about 11 Fifth Avenue, where my dear friend Andy lived with his father in the late 1960s. It is a lovely building in a fabulous location, between 8th and 9th Streets, in the toniest part of Greenwich Village. At the time, I was living at home, teaching secondary school. Many evenings and weekends, I would drive into Manhattan (believe it or not) to hang out with Andy, and to get away from home and secondary school. Because of the frequent time spent in and around 11 Fifth Avenue, I observed the following ritual: At 9 P.M., Carmine DeSapio, deposed leader of Tammany Hall, the New York County Democratic Party machine, the most powerful politician in New York State at his peak, resident of 11 Fifth Avenue, dressed elegantly in a gray herringbone topcoat with a black velvet collar in cooler weather, came walking out the front door, turned left on 8th Street, and went to the candy store about three doors down, to buy the early edition of the New York Daily News, which had the highest circulation of any American newspaper at the time.

Andy got married and moved out before DeSapio went to federal prison in 1971, there is no longer a candy store or newspaper stand anywhere nearby, and the current owner is trying to sell the Daily News, now the fifth largest US newspaper. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015
Newspaper clipping: "In an appearance on Capitol Hill, the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, said Wednesday that the [San Bernardino] couple, who met online, had been talking of an attack as far back as two years ago. They were ‘talking to each other about jihad and martyrdom before they became engaged and married and were living in the U.S.,’ Mr. Comey said."

Imagined dialogue: "Honey, I was reading Martha Stewart’s Weddings magazine and she says, in America, family and friends give gifts to couples when they get engaged and when they marry. In fact, to make it easier, many couples tell certain merchants what they would like to get to start their life together. They call it registering. You put yourself in a Bridal Registry."

"Dear, that sounds very nice and convenient. What do you think that we should ask for?"

"Well, sweetheart, I think I would like a Cuisinart, bathroom towels in a dusty rose color, and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher."

Friday, December 11, 2015
"Vatican Says Catholics Should Not Try to Convert Jews"
There goes my dream of being an altar boy.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Take A Shot

Monday, November 30, 2015
The Godfather part one and two were shown repeatedly during the holiday by a cable television network, which gave me the chance to record these two brilliant movies.  It wasn’t a perfect experience; the shows included a glut of commercials and some language was obviously edited, although quite sanitary by current standards.  I was amused to notice, in that fabulous scene where Michael takes revenge on the five families, that Barzini was shot on the courthouse steps here at 60 Centre Street, an imposing backdrop, often seen in “Law & Order.”  Even after 40 years, that scene and several others still take my breath away, and, unlike some other old favorites when viewed today, do not seem like filmmaking or acting of an earlier day.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Last night, I went to a Rangers game at Madison Square Garden, offering me the opportunity to see if Jack’s 99 Cent Store, 110 West 32nd Street, has returned real chocolate-covered graham crackers and pretzels to stock.  When they offered these two-to-a-package delights for 99¢, an unimaginably bright glow illuminated West 32nd Street and gave me comfort and joy that more than balanced any sadness accompanying a Rangers loss.  Last night, the Rangers won and there was no need to ingest a mood-elevating substance, which was not available, in any case.  Nothing on the shelves even came close to offering the gustatory delight of real chocolate-covered graham crackers or pretzels.  The chocolates that Jack’s offered, ordinary varieties of Lindt, Guylian and Ghirardelli, were being sold above typical supermarket prices, not likely to get my interest.

Today is Woody Allen’s 80th birthday.  He came to mind when I was considering a couple of recent encounters which illustrate the implacable black/white divide in our society.  A black woman on the subway complained to a white man that his brief case had hit her 4 or 5 times.  He apologized, but asked why she had not told him sooner. She replied that he should have noticed it himself sooner. Then, she added that he hadn’t taken care because she was only a black woman.  A couple of weeks earlier, we were waiting for bus to go home after a musical show in midtown Manhattan.  A young black man approached us and asked for money.  I forget his story, but I turned him down, my customary response to any such appeal.  He did not immediately take No for an answer and asked again without success.  Then, he asked, “Is it because I’m black?”

I am almost certain that there have been circumstances where the woman on the subway and the young man on the street were slighted, ignored or refused because they were black, but not necessarily this time.  As a bleeding-heart liberal, I was disappointed that each reached for a stereotype that may have been absent, and, at the same time, I was sorry that it so easily came to mind for them.  Could either imagine an encounter that did not reflect the racial differences?  Or, am I naive to think that black/white encounters actually occur in a color-blind fashion?

Which brings me to Woody Allen.  In Annie Hall, which he wrote, directed and starred in, a movie that stands next to The Godfather, Allen’s character says, “You know, I was having lunch with some guys from NBC, so I said, ‘Did you eat yet or what?’  And Tom Christie said, ‘No, JEW?’  Not ‘Did you?’  JEW eat?  JEW?  You get it?  JEW eat?”  While Annie Hall appeared in 1977 and was supposed to be a comedy, I think that many Members of the Tribe would react seriously the same way today, as ethnocentric or predisposed to victimhood as the woman on the subway and the young man on the street.   

Wednesday, December 1, 2015 
[NB - This was written hours before the terrible events in San Bernardino, California.]
It’s time that progressive forces adopt some of the operating principles of the Domestic Enemies of Sanity.  First, since the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun, let’s arm all Planned Parenthood employees.  Second, grant armed Planned Parenthood employees amnesty for all acts of gun violence against unaccompanied white males, since the appearance of an unaccompanied white male in or near a Planned Parenthood facility is a reasonable basis for a Planned Parenthood employees to fear bodily harm. 

After a day spent coughing and blowing my nose in private at home, I decided to come to work and share my discomfort.  A lunch date with the Boyz Club was the main incentive to venture forth on this chilly, drizzly day.  We ate at Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen 11 Mott Street, a joint that deserves your patronage.  We had roti wrap with curried chicken and curry dipping sauce, roti wrap with rendang beef and curry dipping sauce, (very spicy) Thai beef salad, crispy Thai veggie spring rolls, KL Hokkian char mee (fat, round noodles in a dark soy sauce, with pork, shrimp, squid), Mee siam (rice vermicelli with egg, tofu, bean sprouts, chives and crushed peanuts - vegetarian), babas chili chicken (cooked with roasted chili and carmelized onions), tangerine beef, young chow fried rice (with everything), and tropical coconut fried rice (vegetarian).  With a generous tip (as always), the bill came to $18 each.  I also got temporary relief from my head cold with a cup of hot lemon juice and honey.    

Thursday, December 3, 2015
“How Often Do Mass Shootings Occur?  On Average, Every Day, Records Show”
http://nyti.ms/1LPCrOq

And many of our politicians, bold in the face of the undeserving poor, unionized public employees and distant populations, are only able to offer impotent piety in the face of home-grown tragedy.


Friday, December 4, 2015
Tom Adcock called my attention to the obituary of Russia's Favorite Epidemiologist-Spy.
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/04/world/middleeast/soviet-spy-marcus-klingberg-israel.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fobituaries&action=click&contentCollection=obituaries&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=3&pgtype=sectionfront

Friday, November 27, 2015

Turkey Hash

Monday, November 23, 2015
Yesterday's New York Times had an interesting letter from Thomas H. Wright, emeritus vice president and secretary of Princeton University, dealing with the value of education.  He wrote: "There is substantial evidence that the more exposure to higher education that people today have received, the less likely they are to be susceptible to demagogy and denial of evidence and proven facts; and they are more capable of changing their prejudice-based opinions, and in general better prepared to join in the long effort to make a better world out of the crooked timber of humanity"  He does not cite any evidence, but what comes to my mind are: Ted Cruz - Princeton University, Ben Carson - Yale University, Carly Fiorina - Stanford University.  As for really crooked timber, I'll skip you-know-who, University of Pennsylvania.

November 22nd was the 52nd anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, a day that remains vivid to me as it probably does to most of you who were adults at the time.  I imagine that the 9/11 will have the same staying power to younger generations.  The Kennedy assassination raised immediate short-lived fears of some sort of conspiracy that threatened other national leaders.  However, sitting in Ithaca, New York, I did not fear for the physical safety of the country, although its political future seemed muddy at the time.  9/11, the first time that foreign forces did measurable harm in the continental US, left the Home of the Brave in continuing fear and produced a legacy of oppressive measures, official and unofficial, that continue to diminish our quality of life.  Right now, it is too soon to measure the impact of the latest attack on Paris and related events, but I doubt that it will produce a flourish of liberty, equality and fraternity.

The Wehrmacht, the combined Nazi armed forces, had more that 12,000,000 people in service, at its peak in 1944. http://www.feldgrau.com/stats.html

Compare that to the 8 or 9 Paris attackers 10 days ago, probably backed up with an equal number of fanatics, and the 2 or 3 people who attacked the hotel in Mali.  Clearly, the power of modern personal weaponry and instantaneous worldwide communications have, at least temporarily, amplified the perceived threat to ordinary people to an irrational level.  I'm sure that the stiff upper lips of Londoners exposed to nightly bombings in WWII occasionally quivered.  We saw how Earl Warren, later a dignified and righteous figure in American jurisprudence, hastened to intern American citizens because of their Japanese ancestry.  Stress or threat may well cloud one's judgment.  Some of our politicians, no doubt in tune with their constituents, seem poised to reerect the stockades.  I notice that many of those who advocate limiting the freedom of both the general public and certain population subsets, are usually ready to carve out a large domain of freedom for gun bearers.  What a formula for chaos.

I was fortunate to have Alan Silverman, an original member of the All-Alan Chorus, join me for lunch.  I had not seen Alan for one whole granddaughter of his.  As you know, J. Alfred Prufrock measured his life out with coffee spoons.  Some of us are fortunate enough now to measure our lives out with grandchildren.  We went to Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street, now a regular stop on my Chinatown perambulations.  Since I wanted Alan to be pleased, I ordered some familiar things that I have enjoyed already, and a couple of new dishes, to wit: roti wrap chicken, roti wrap beef (those fat burritos stuffed with curry chicken and rendang beef served with that delicious buttery curry sauce), Thai beef salad (charcoal-grilled beef in a very spicy chili, mint, onion, lime dressing) and char keow teow (lo mein-like rice noodles cooked with chicken, eggs, chives, lap cheong [Chinese sausage] and bean sprouts).  As it turned out, both Alans were thoroughly pleased.   

Ted Cruz wants to limit the American acceptance of Syrian refugees to Christians.  Even as a Jew, I am willing to abide with this policy if properly administered.  Not all Christians are created equal, after all.  Significant bloodshed has accompanied intra-Christian rivalries from Martin Luther through the Irish Republican Army.  Therefore, let us limit our welcome to Methodists.  While I admittedly do not know or understand the doctrinal differences among Christians, I like the sound of Methodists, Methodism, Methodical.  Those are the sort of folk that we need to make this country great again, like it was 10 years ago.  Please note that I don’t expect this exclusionary policy to be retroactive, returning the Gotthelfs to downtown Zuromin, Poland, a town about 75 miles northwest of Warsaw, population 8,647 (2006).   

Speaking of getting it backwards, British movie theaters are rejecting a prayerful advertisement produced by the Church of England.  Now, if all those annoying ads that are shown while we await the start of a film could be eliminated, I would be delighted.  I am not going to drink $4 cups of watered-down Coca-Cola no matter how cute the polar bears are.  However, “campaigners for a secular society argued that if the advertisement were shown, other religious groups might by law gain the right to have their material distributed in the same way.”  Which is exactly the idea.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Don’t say that you weren’t warned.  “When we were young, you would never show your underwear,” the designer Tommy Hilfiger said recently, referring to an era when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.  “Now, if you don’t show your underwear, you’re just not cool.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Now, this is cool.

Examining Google flight searches, the New York Times graphically displays prospective Thanksgiving travel patterns.  While the prototypical Thanksgiving scene includes a blazing fire in an autumnal setting, in fact, favored destinations for holiday travelers are Orlando, Miami and Las Vegas.  Where are people leaving from?  Boston, Washington and Atlanta.  

Speaking of travelers, we welcomed America’s Loveliest Nephrologist and the Oakland Heartthrob to the Palazzo di Gotthelf late last night for a holiday visit.  

Jihadist violence has taken 28 lives in the United States since 9/11 (not counting the dead perps).  As illustrated by an article today, 9 of the perps were born in the USA, 5 were naturalized citizens, 2 had green cards, one had a tourist visa, and one, a British citizen, did not require a visa. 

Sorry to disappoint Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and other Freedom Fighters, but none of the bad guys was a refugee.  In all this posturing about the sanctity of our borders and the safety of our citizens, the same blowhards continue to ignore some facts (lots of facts actually) about the toll taken by domestic, white, Gentile terrorists, about twice as deadly as foreign and domestic Muslims since 9/11.  Note that, so far, all of our terrorists have been male, whatever their skin shade or religion.   

The worst omission by our bold patriots is the number of Americans killed by guns, homicides, suicides and accidents, at least 33,636 in 2013 (the latest year available). 
http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/united-states

If you libertarians wish to eliminate the remarkably high number of suicides from this tally (freedom of choice and all that), gun homicides and accidents killed 12,461 people in 2013.  What shall we do about it?  Repeat after me:  U-S-A!  U-S-A!  We’re #1! 


Friday, November 26, 2015
I think that everybody but you was here yesterday for Thanksgiving dinner, prepared with exquisite care and producing wonderful results by my young bride.  I have always enjoyed the turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes heaped on my plate.  As is widely known, I am a pulke person (pulke = drumstick in Yiddish), so our turkey came with 5 pulkes, 2 original equipment and 3 after-market accessories.


Friday, November 20, 2015

What Did That Used To Be Called?

Monday, November 16, 2015
The New York Giants played a football game yesterday that went back and forth. In the end, the Giants defeated two teams – the New England Patriots and the New York Giants.

If you read this headline, you have to read the story that follows.
"Jack Yufe, a Jew Whose Twin Was a Nazi, Dies at 82"
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/14/us/jack-yufe-a-jew-whose-twin-was-a-nazi-dies-at-82.html?_r=1

We are faced with many politicians, and ordinary citizens, calling for us to get tough with ISIS. Rarely do they offer any specifics to go with their aggressive posturing. I offer a three-pronged approach to this very difficult challenge:
1) Anyone proposing taking the battle to ISIS will be conscripted to be among the first boots on the ground. If unable to serve, their adult children or grandchildren will serve in their stead.
2) Increase taxes on the wealthy, those who have the most to lose, in order to raise military preparedness – supplies and pay – to its highest levels. Let’s not send unarmored Humvees into harm’s way again.
3) Attack inequality at home to prevent the growth of a radical underclass.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
I did something today that I haven’t done for years -- I had Chinese food for lunch . . . not in Chinatown. But, let is begin this story last night. I was enjoying a new cookie from Trader Joe's, their version of Pepperidge Farm’s Milano, probably the best mass produced cookie in the Western Hemisphere. As I customarily did with almost every chocolate dessert, I had put it in the freezer. As I bit into the frozen cookie, I was surprised to find a nut, until I realized that the cookie had a smooth Belgian chocolate filling, no nuts. Tooth. Not the baker’s, mine. 

After several hours in the office this morning, I went to one member of my dental army, situated in midtown Manhattan. He looked at the small tooth fragment and found where it used to be. Since his eyes and my tongue could not detect a sharp edge where the tooth broke, we decided to leave well enough alone. So, I left the dentist’s office at 2:15 without having been charged a cent and I went looking for a place to have lunch. I skipped in order to spare the dentist having to wade through and around the flotsam and jetsam of one of my usual meals. In midtown Manhattan, there was a vast array of choices for lunch.

Lan Sheng, Szechuan Restaurant, 60 West 39th Street, is on a block with about as many restaurants as there are unsuitable Republican candidates for President. The restaurant is long and narrow, well furnished, peach-colored walls, boasting of once having had (and lost) a Michelin star. I asked for Singapore chow fun ($9.95), not on the menu, but undoubtedly available where Singapore mei fun (angel hair noodles) is listed. The waiter repeated "wide" several times and held his fingers apart to demonstrate what I was getting in case I had missed my latest Mandarin homework assignment. The large portion was excellent, loaded with chicken, shrimp, egg, bean sprouts and scallions mixed in with the spicy wide noodles. Considering the much more expensive midtown real estate, the price was quite reasonable, almost the same as Chinatown.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Now we’re talking. Jeb! spoke yesterday about the threat posed by ISIS and went boldly where his competitors have not gone. "The United States should not delay in leading a global coalition to take out ISIS with overwhelming force. Militarily, we need to intensify our efforts in the air — and on the ground." That’s right – Boots On The Ground. I await word that his three adult children have put themselves forward to lead the effort that ! advocates. So far, the only reaction from his Republican opponents is Donald Trump’s promise to send several copies of his New York Military Academy yearbook overseas to inspire those doing battle for Western Civilization.

Thursday, November 19, 2015
Was Shakespeare right? "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." Princeton students started a sit-in at the university’s president’s office yesterday. Their demands include the removal of Woodrow Wilson’s name from anything named after him at the university, because of his patent racism. Should we be equally vigorous regarding the commemoration of other imperfect human beings, such as, Malcolm X (criminality), Franklin D. Roosevelt (philandering) and Peter Stuyvesant (anti–Semitism)? If we are too quick to wield a paint brush, a chisel or a screwdriver to remove the signs of offensive characters from our halls and walls, we may wind up with vast spaces designated as "To Whom It May Concern."

Friday, November 20, 2015
Stony Brook Steve came by for lunch and we went to Oriental Garden, 14 Elizabeth Street (April 27, 2010), which is near the top of many people's list of favorite Chinese restaurants, including Zagat's. It gets a mention, but not a star from Michelin. and my last visit did not compel me to hurry back.  While the food is good, the room simply doesn't feel comfortable; there seems to be too much empty space.  The surprise that one woman server showed when I asked for a glass of water in addition to the pot of tea on the table added to my unease.

We ordered dim sum from a printed menu, almost all priced at $4 a dish.  A few items were coming around on a cart, but most were fetched from the kitchen.  We had scallop dumplings, chicken dumplings, chive dumplings, baked pork buns and sweet/sour spareribs.  I guess that Oriental Garden would be best at night, a large group very hungry for very good, expensive Chinese food.

Donald Trump is taking heat from Republicans and Democrats for his impulsive suggestion to institute a database for Muslims.  It smacks of Nazi Germany, of course.  Here is a much friendlier idea.  Let's put a bell around the neck of Texas Republicans to signal the approach of George W. Bush, Rick Perry or Ted Cruz.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A View From Chinatown

Monday, November 9, 2015
It’s not easy coming up with new Chinese restaurants after almost six years plodding the streets of Chinatown, but I sought and I found Sunrise Restaurant 88 (a/k/a Sunrise Chinese Restaurant), 50 Eldridge Street. 8 is a lucky number for many Chinese, so appending it here is wishful thinking.  Sunrise replaced Long Xin Restaurant (July 2, 2012), although physically they seem quite the same, a big room, with high ceilings covered in blue plastic panels painted with puffy clouds. All the tables are round, with most having heavy-duty lazy Susans in the middle. A significant difference, however, was the busyness. I reported back then that Long Xin "was fairly busy, with Chinese occupants at every table, all except the French grandmother, mother and daughter right behind me." Today, I was the only customer seated, while one person came in and out for takeout.

I ordered orange flavored beef ($8.75) and got a medium-sized portion with too much broccoli on the plate. While it was cooked while I waited, since the kitchen had little else to do, it was otherwise ordinary. I won’t mind if the sun sets on Sunrise.

Nearby was the new, large 99 Favor Taste, 285 Grand Street, the offspring of a Brooklyn establishment. I stopped in there before going on to Sunrise, but, finding that it is devoted exclusively to hot pot, I left and it is unlikely that I will ever return. To quote myself (August 20, 2014, referring to October 28, 2013), "Hot pot, as I’ve noted before, is a Chinese variant on fondue, whereby you are sure to burn your mouth, lips and tongue as well as spattering the front of your shirt/blouse with the bubbling liquid." I don’t mean to deter you, and I will pass on any interesting observations that you might provide on this joint.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Modigliani’s work "Nu Couché" sold for $170.4 million yesterday at auction, the second highest price paid at auction for an artwork.

I am satisfied enjoying it as reproduced for only the cost of a newspaper. The New York Times included this illustration in the article today about the transaction, and, over the weekend, carried a full-page advertisement for the auction almost entirely occupied by the illustration. This is near-revolutionary for the staid New York Times, to show so much female flesh, even as art. Maybe now, some of us arrested adolescents can discard old issues of the National Geographic containing revealing photographs of native villagers.

An e-mail late this afternoon told me that 2,099 people have read my Trip Advisor reviews. What a feeling of power! It’s like being a Republican candidate for president, except I am inhibited by facts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Armistice Day (Veteran’s Day) is a state holiday, no work.  However, my young bride and I had an important appointment and we were careful in our preparations and our accessorizing. We were invited to meet, for the first time, and have lunch with, the Oakland Heartthrob's parents, moving that whole Situation up to Defcon 2. I am happy to say that all went well; Mr. and Mrs. M. were delightful company and my skirt steak salad was superb.

Friday, November 13, 2015
As many of you, I often take cultural clues from the New York Times.  This morning, I am in a position to differ with its rave review of Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge." 
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/13/theater/review-a-view-from-the-bridge-bears-witness-to-the-pain-of-fate.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=Moth-Visible&moduleDetail=inside-nyt-region-2&clickSource=wide-thumb&module=inside-nyt-region&region=inside-nyt-region&WT.nav=inside-nyt-region&_r=0

"At the end of its uninterrupted two hours, you are wrung out, scooped out and so exhausted that you’re wide awake. You also feel ridiculously blessed to have been a witness to the terrible events you just saw." Is that a rave, or what?

The play is much more about individuals and their personal challenges than the Big Ideas which Miller usually addresses in "The Crucible," "Death of a Salesman," and "The Price," works that I am familiar with. The play is supposed to be driven by the emergence of a deep, disturbing obsession. However, after an opaque, wordless opening scene that could front almost any "serious" work, the secret is thrown right into our laps (by way of the laps of the lead characters). There are no more surprises after the first few minutes, as a cruel fate eventually encompasses the players. 
 
We saw the play less than 2 weeks ago, but I don't think that the interval between that performance and last night's opening accounted for my difference of opinion with the usually astute Times reviewer. The play came over intact from London, where it was equally celebrated, with the same cast and creative team. I acknowledge that my opinion here may not be as important or well founded as my views on scallion pancakes.

In that vein, I want to discuss Wo Hop vs. Wok Wok. I went to Wok Wok (11 Mott Street) today, on my regular weekly visit ever since it opened. Does that mean that I have abandoned my devotion to and affection for Wo Hop (17 Mott Street)? Hardly. I continue going to Wo Hop, usually once a week, Tuesday this week. I know its menu so well that I stick to some world-class favorites -- chow fun, fried rice, egg foo young, crispy fried noodles. These items  consistently evoke a silly grin of satisfaction which I don't feel the need to verbalize time after time. The menu at Wok Wok, however, still has some unexplored territory, and I try something new each visit, giving rise to commentary.

Today, I had roti wrap ($5.75) with rendang beef, "an Indonesian dish made by simmering beef for hours in coconut milk and spices until the liquid has evaporated"  (http://norecipes.com/recipe/beef-rendang-recipe/). As in last week's roti wrap with curried chicken, the delicious contents are wrapped in a flaky crêpe, nearly 6" long and 2" in diameter. It is accompanied by small bowl of buttery curry sauce for dipping and dunking and schlurping. I'm sure that I will pay more for this dish in time, and, as long as it retains its ample size and great taste, I will do so happily.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Let's Mingle

Monday, November 2, 2015
Friday night, we went to the theater with the Schneiders.  Saturday night, we sat down in our theater seats to find that we were sitting next to the Moskowitzes and directly in front of the Bergs.  Now, all of these people are charming folks and welcome company, but I am a strong believer in diversity in public and private affairs.  So, I am asking the D'Angelos, the Johnsons, the Reillys, the Changs and the Gomezes to send me some available dates in order for us to meet and mingle with folks from a different gene pool.  I'm sure that I would benefit from their ideas based on their life experiences, while they might benefit from almost 6,000 years of wisdom passed on generation-to-generation, burnished by adversity, and proven to garner high SAT scores and to have an ability to sell ladies’ clothing.

But, I'm not the only one worrying about diversity right now.  Arthur C. Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, agonized over the issue in the New York Times the other day.  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/31/opinion/academias-rejection-of-diversity.html?_r=0

Remember that the American Enterprise Institute has been notably silent over the decades in the face of racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination.  When it addressed the subject(s), it usually advised the disprivileged to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and trust to the basic fairness of the great American public, counseling them to put aside thoughts of legislation and aim for the hearts and minds of the population at large.  So, what has stirred Mr. Brooks current cry for justice?  It is the lack of "ideological diversity in the behavioral sciences."  Conservatives are supposedly being frozen out of university positions in psychology, social neuroscience,  criminology and related fields, and/or their published output is being inhibited by the lack of status or stature to do their work.  What a shame. 
 
While some of us are concerned about discrimination in mortgage lending, jury selection, police targeting, employment hiring and compensation, and voting rights, conservatives are being insidiously denied their place in the groves of academe.  Obviously, the hearts and minds of the collectivists running our universities are closed to right reason.  Maybe we need to offer Pell grants for subscriptions to the National Review.   

I like fried chicken a lot, but it is never served at Palazzo di Gotthelf mainly because of the time and complexity needed to prepare it.  Outside the home, a report that a restaurant has demonstrated excellence in frying a chicken is a powerful lure for me.  Therefore, I got a  vicarious thrill from reading these recipes.  http://cooking.nytimes.com/68861692-nyt-cooking/474-14-of-our-very-best-fried-chicken-recipes

If you wish, you can convert my vicarious thrills into actual ones by advising me where and when you will be serving anyone of these versions, or even your own functional equivalent.  I’ll bring dessert.  
 
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Today is Election Day with the sparest imaginable ballot.  In my voting district, there are only uncontested elections for judgeships, only Democrats need apply.  Yet, this warrants a day off from work for all of us justice junkies down at the courthouse.  While I took all my meals at home, I walked over four miles through midtown Manhattan, enjoying the lovely weather.  

Again, the New York Times web site has come up with something better even than dreams of sugar plum fairies, chocolate recipes.  

Wednesday, November 4, 2015
I had to sign some papers at a downtown office building, so I decided to eat in the Financial District before returning to Heaven on Earth.  I chose Zaitzeff, 72 Nassau Street, corner of John Street, the only outlet for this hamburger joint, without knowing that it got high marks from Trip Advisor and Zagat’s.  What attracted me was the basic simplicity of the joint and the busyness it had early in the lunch hour.  

Zaitzeff (I have no idea where or who the name comes from) offers sirloin burger, Kobe burger, turkey burger and veggie burger, as well as a BLT, a chicken sandwich and a couple of fried egg sandwiches.  The 1/4 pound sirloin burger that I had, the overwhelming majority choice while I sat there, costs $10.50 and comes with lettuce, tomato and grilled onions on a Portuguese roll.  Options include bacon, cheese, mushrooms (my choice) and a fried egg, which I resisted in spite of memories of Obie’s in downtown Ithaca, adding $1.50 to $3.  My burger, cooked medium without asking, was very good.  Doubling the amount of meat to 1/2 pound costs $6 more.  My only complaint was too much of good thing, that is the enormous portion of hand cut French fries for $5.  They should not serve this to one person.  No smaller portion was available.

Zaitzeff used its very small space efficiently.  Three country oak dining room tables, each with six chairs, were constantly occupied,while many other people came and went with carry-out orders.  I hadn't planned on lingering to do a crossword at lunchtime anyway.  The food was better than I had on my first visit ever to Shake Shack, one week ago.  Nothing but very large crowds kept me away from any of Shake Shack’s many outlets that I came across, including the stand at CitiField where I could never get close enough to order, day game, night game, good weather, bad weather, Mets ahead, Mets behind.  Shake Shack was cheaper than Zaitzeff, but the latter’s quality warranted it.  Neither place is for the nervous or the claustrophobe.

Thursday, November 5, 2015
Today’s New York Times pays attention to the demise of Organic Avenue, a local chain of 10 cold-pressed juice stores.  It seemed to be very popular with skinny people and beautiful people, who frequently felt the need for a good “cleansing.”  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/05/fashion/organic-avenue-close.html?ref=fashion
 
Needless to say, I never patronized Organic Avenue; in fact, I had no idea that it even existed.  Whenever I am walking the streets of New York and I catch sight of a whirring blender containing a green liquid, my pace increases notably and whoever happens to be ahead of me faces the risk of being stepped on.  Maybe Gwyneth Paltrow et alia need to be reminded of the virtues of an artisanal egg cream. 
 
I made my now regular weekly visit to Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street, today.  It was busy, about 3/4 of the tables occupied, but service was efficient.

I had ma la wonton ($5.50), seven small wontons cooked in a highly-spiced peanut sauce, and roti wrap ($5.75), a 5" long Malaysian chicken burrito.  The thin, slightly flaky pancake surrounded curried chicken, with a small bowl of delicious, buttery curry sauce on the side.  I enjoyed it so much that, even though I left two boxes in the crossword puzzle empty, lunchtime was a very satisfying experience.
 
Friday, November 6, 2015
Today is Love Your Lawyer Day, in case you forgot.  https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/images/abanews/LoveYourLawyerDay.pdf
 
America's Favorite Epidemiologist and I are discussing where she might place the following tattoo.
 
 

Friday, October 30, 2015

My Speech (10/24/15)

Before I begin, I must say how pleased I am to share this day with Evelyn Attia Laufer.  Putting aside for the moment the legal implications of taking another wife, I think that it is appropriate that I am paired with a woman who is a psychiatrist and a world-famous authority on eating disorders.
 
My dear friend Steve Schneider likes to time how long it takes me in conversation to bring up an old girl friend.  Well, I'll make it easy for him and start immediately with a recollection from almost 50 years ago when a girl friend asked me if I liked being Jewish.  She volunteered that she did not like it, for very practical reasons.  Her father was a very prominent rabbi and he was beset by demands on his time and energy from his congregation and the community at large.  She felt isolated and ignored as a result, although her father was devoted to her, but in that undemonstrative way that many fathers -- Jewish and otherwise -- have of holding their affection back.  She connected her unhappiness to her father's position, and, by extension, to Judaism generally.
 
On the other hand, I had no hesitation expressing my satisfaction with being Jewish, although it came at a time in my life that I entered a synagogue only for a few minutes during the High Holidays and for those life cycle events where the intimacy of the association made attendance unavoidable.  That period of abstention actually lasted for many decades to come.
  
I was physically absent from organized Jewish life while maintaining a strong sense of Jewish identity.  This seeming disconnect was, to my mind, a natural outcome of my Jewish childhood.  My parents kept a kosher home, but, of course, on occasional Sunday afternoons they took us to Wu-Han’s Chinese restaurant, one flight up on Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
 
Friday night dinners were always chicken soup, chopped liver, chicken and a 12 ounce bottle of Pepsi-Cola that my brother and I divided with as much attention as paid to the first splitting of the atom.  Candles were lit and then my parents welcomed in the Sabbath by making their weekly grocery shopping rounds to the A&P, Bohack’s and Daitch Shopwell.  
 
There was Hebrew school, heder.  That meant a dusty, airless room at the top of the Sutter Avenue shul.  I say the Sutter Avenue shul because our houses of worship were identified by location alone and I doubt that my father or my observant uncles could provide the formal name for the Sutter Avenue shul, closest to us, or the Fountain Avenue shul, closest to my Grandmother Gotthelf.  
 
Rabbi Colmanovitch (as he was called) was the sole teacher for the two Hebrew classes that met after school weekdays.  The earlier class was for younger boys, 8 to 10, the later for boys approaching Bar Mitzvah.  And it was only boys, with the exception of the Rubinstein sisters -- I remember the older as Rachel, nearly my age.  In contrast to the boys, these girls came solely for the sake of education.  No girls at that shul could expect to have a Bat Mitzvah, and I think that the balcony where the women sat would have collapsed if it were attempted.  By an odd coincidence, about 30 years later, I sat next to Aaron Rubinstein at a banquet dinner and learned that he was their baby brother.
 
Rabbi Colmanovitch would not hesitate to swat his inattentive scholars, and I was a big and deserving target, yet my memories of the Sutter Avenue shul were mostly pleasant.  While West End Synagogue has services marked by Bob Dylan music and ee cummings poetry, only discordant, unsynchronized Hebrew chanting and Yiddish conversation were heard at Sutter Avenue services.  I still remember starting my Haftorah, the warbling sing song that is the artistic highlight of a Bar Mitzvah service, when an old man began chanting his own version at a speed and pronunciation distinctly different than mine.  
 
While that beginning of my Haftorah was less than perfect, it ended, as was typical in those days, with a shower from the women’s balcony above of brown paper bags, filled with candy.  The boys from heder scurried around to collect as many bags as possible from the floor, not only for the sweet treats, but aware that, in vivid contrast to today's lavish Kiddushim (the meal after services), the congregation could only expect rye whiskey, pickled herring and honey cake in the synagogue's basement afterwards.

 
I especially looked forward to other boys’ Bar Mitzvahs at the Sutter Avenue shul because my maternal grandmother, the wonderful Esther Malka Goldenberg, sat front and center in the balcony, recognized as a community leader because of her ownership of a grocery store a few blocks away.  Esther Malka used her position of influence very much to my advantage by gathering many of those brown paper bags from other women before they could be launched onto the floor below and holding them until I made my way upstairs to visit her.  She called me, contrary to the physical evidence even then, “the Klayner” because I was the younger of two children.
 
Even now, I can’t think about being Jewish without thinking about Esther Malka.  Not just because of the candy that she hoarded for me on those Saturday mornings, but because of the generosity that she showed to so many people in varying ways.  On one or two occasions, while I was in high school, I stayed with her for a week when everyone else was out of her household.  After a couple of mornings, I got used to the mailman sitting down for breakfast as part of his daily rounds, but I was surprised when the Fire Marshall sat down, at her urging, while inspecting the premises, which included the grocery store below the living quarters.  
 
Of course, all interactions with those folks and any members of the general public, Jewish or not, were conducted in her distinctive Yiddish-English.  Two of her most memorable locutions were admonishing my mother for allowing me to go to shul on a Saturday morning dressed in “Tangerines,” and identifying people that she met on shipboard on her trip to Israel in the late 1950s as coming from the Western state of “Coca Cola.”
 
With that legacy, how could I ever move away from Judaism, even if I stayed away from synagogues?
 
As my horizons broadened and my skepticism deepened, I remained Jewish at the most visceral level.  I talked Jewish, I thought Jewish, I ate Jewish, although this was not always easy outside New York City.  My first wife was Jewish and we were married by a Rabbi, but nothing distinguished our household in Los Angeles as a Jewish home.  Her parents' experience as refugees from the Nazis in Vienna, escaping halfway around the world to Shanghai, stripped them of whatever connection to Jewish customs and rituals that they may have grown up with.  This neutered condition bothered me, but I thought that the arrival of children would return Jewishness to my life, with Hebrew school, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and family celebrations.  But, there were no children, the marriage collapsed and I returned to New York.  
 
Thinking back, I can only remember going to shul once in the nine years that I lived in Los Angeles.  I didn’t miss the worship, the Hebrew language, the too frequent standing up and sitting down, and the vapid sermonizing.  It was the Being There, taking my place, if only for a brief time, among the Jewish people, that strange river of humanity rising in a past that we insist not be forgotten. 
 
Actually, my exposure to vapid sermonizing began after we left Brooklyn, because Rabbi Sininsky at the Sutter Avenue shul, a stubby man with curly red hair, delivered his remarks exclusively in impassioned Yiddish, with tears.  When, with great reluctance, I accompanied my parents to a conservative shul in Queens for High Holy Day services, I first heard sermons in English and slid further down in my seat.  Conservative shuls were the place where I spent an hour or two each September or October while my mother, who lived to nearly 103 years old, was still able to, and therefore insistent upon, attending services.  
 
Additionally, I made a visit to a synagogue, rarely the same one twice, each November for my father’s Yahrzeit, the commemoration of his death.  My presence among a small group of strangers at evening prayers brought me little comfort, always raising questions and doubts about my connection with those people.  But, I felt that it was my connection to my father that I was asserting, and I often wondered who might connect with me in the future.
In 1996, I met America’s Favorite Epidemiologist.  We married in 2003, using a Rabbi who actually knew us.  We moved to the building immediately behind where we are now seated, although the presence of two shuls in front of the door was of no consequence to me.  My mother-in-law took ill late in 2003 and died in January 2004.  Mayris, whose adult life included active participation in Jewish education, services and community activities, sought a place to regularly say the mourner’s prayers.  In an interesting twist, she turned to Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, then at CBST, then unmarried, whom she had known from Rabbi Ayelet’s youth, for guidance in picking a shul that reflected the progressive Jewish values that Mayris was committed to.  
 
Easy, go to West End Synagogue, listen to Rabbi Yael Ridberg, said Rabbi Ayelet.  Indeed, I started hearing about interesting programs and discussions held on Saturdaymornings while I stayed home with the newspaper.  Mayris even suggested that I might appreciate some of the ideas being tossed around, but I stayed true to my faith.  Of course, I knew that I had to spend a little time at High Holy Day services and I agreed to go to West End Synagogue, before I learned that those services were held in some church over by the park, not in the cute little building downstairs.       
 
Besides the gothic surroundings, not entirely cleansed of Christian imagery, where the congregation gathered, the West End Synagogue services differed from what I remembered being disdainful of in other venues.  There was music and poetry and commentary that was not entirely offensive to my rational sensibilities.  Then, in a few moments that sealed my future, and brought me here today, Isaac Zieman, a little old man got up and sang, in a wonderful reedy voice, Partisaner Lid, a Yiddish song of resistance to the Nazis.  
 
Zog nit keyn mol, az du geyst dem letstn veg,
khotsh himlen blayene farshteln bloye teg.
Kumen vet nokh undzer oysgebenkte sho,
s’vet a poyk ton undzer trot: mir zaynen do!
 
Never say this is the final road for you,
Though leadened skies may cover over days of blue.
As the hour that we longed for is so near,
Our step beats out the message: we are here!