Friday, January 30, 2015

Law & Order

Monday, January 26, 2015
$1.79 9/10. Can you believe that? $1.79 9/10 is the price of one gallon of regular gasoline on Route 4 in northern New Jersey. It made me feel 30 years younger. Gas prices are usually cheaper in New Jersey than anywhere else in the country, although the nearest major oil fields are an ocean or nearly a continent away. I believe that the presence of large oil refineries, that are readily detected by nose along the New Jersey Turnpike, is the critical economic factor. The consistently lower than thou gas prices in New Jersey prevail even though all service stations provide – wait a minute – Service, someone to pump your gas. This labor component, which must send some of our robber barons into hysteria, is required by New Jersey state law, the Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act, enacted in 1949. While consumer safety was the initial concern, today other benefits derive from this policy, which is shared only by Oregon. Of course, many of the same politicians who genuflect before the "job creators" have agitated for eliminating the jobs at the pump mandated by these state laws. Sort of like working for Bain, closing businesses, and exporting jobs while boasting of your ability to improve the American economy. If you want to know more about pumping gas, read "Fill ‘er Up: A Study of Statewide Self-Service Gasoline Station Bans," a 2007 paper by economics professor Robert Scott III, of Monmouth (N.J.) University.
Please note that you must register to read this free on-line.   

I discovered the good news about gasoline prices under otherwise sad circumstances. We attended the funeral of a dear elderly aunt who lived in New Jersey. Several people commented that it was typical of her warm and considerate personality that her funeral was held before the threatened blizzard that promises to bring most transportation to a halt.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
The blizzard skirted New York City, dropping 8-10 inches of snow locally, while inundating eastern Long Island and Connecticut. Nevertheless, subways and buses in New York City were shut down and cars banned from the streets. Consequently, most businesses were closed, including the court system. Simon G., the brilliant CCNY student 54 years behind me, came over to help me with restoring our premises to liveable conditions and we had some pretty good pizza for lunch at a joint that had weathered the storm.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
We are still dealing with the aftermath of our residential renovations and the three week absence from home, notably catching up with our reading. So, I am only now getting to the Sunday New York Times article on Google and sex. Based on the searches people conduct on Google, the author concludes that "[p]eople lie to friends, lovers, doctors, surveys and themselves" about sex. While standard survey data paint a picture of fairly frequent and satisfactory sex generally among adult American heterosexuals, Google queries show a more anxious, frustrated population. For instance, when a search uses the phrase "_ _ _ _ _ marriage" in a negative context, the missing word is most often "sexless," three times more frequently than "unhappy." You anatomists out there might be interested in learning that men inquire about penis size about 170 more often than women. Or, did you know that already? Read all about it at:

Thursday, January 29, 2015
Last night, we returned to New Jersey to pay a shiva call, a visit to a house of mourning. On the way, I encountered another unique New Jersey law that was far less welcoming than the mandated presence of gas station attendants. It seems that, as of October 20, 2010, New Jersey Motor Vehicle Law 39.4-77.1 requires drivers to clear all snow and ice from the roof of a vehicle before taking to the road. While we cleaned the windows of our car, front, rear and side, before leaving the grounds of our estate, snow remained on our car when we left the isle of Manhattan. As a result, a Bergen County peace officer, stationed almost exactly on the spot where the Christieans munged up the traffic around the George Washington Bridge, pulled me over to inform me of the error of my ways, and to commemorate our encounter with a citation. Further, I have been invited to appear at a municipal facility in Hackensack, New Jersey, at a later date, to discuss my delinquent behavior. 

Friday, January 30, 2015
New York imposes a sales tax upon an admission charge to any place of amusement in the state, "except charges for admission to dramatic or musical arts performances." According to today’s New York Law Journal, a judge ruled this week that Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club in Manhattan is not exempt from this sales tax. The business argued that the lap dances it provided qualified as dramatic or musical arts performances, thus insulating it from taxation. Relying upon Matter of 677 New Loudon Corp. v State of N.Y. Tax Appeals Tribunal, 85 AD3d 1341 (3d Dept 2011), the judge upheld the taxing scheme, because "the dances at the club were ancillary to the ultimate service sold, which was sexual fantasy." Don't you think that all fantasies should be tax free?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Homeward Bound

Monday, January 19, 2015
The New York Times had an article about a study conducted by psychologists attempting to foster intimacy between strangers aiming for love and marriage. They have crafted 36 questions to be answered by the participants to each other, much more profound than the introductory palaver usually exchanged on first dates. For instance, "Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?" rather than "What’s your favorite movie?" Or, "If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?" rather than "If you could be any kind of sandwich, what would you be?" Sharing such personal feelings with a stranger so soon, it is felt, hastens (forces) the development of a close relationship.

The full set of questions is at
I asked myself the questions and grew very fond of me.

Speaking of close relationships, we remain in privity with the Hotel Lucerne, because the fine craftsmen restoring the splendor of the Palazzo di Gotthelf are not yet finished.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Even if the New York Rangers were not playing the Ottawa Senators tonight, I would not watch President Obama vs. the Republican Senators and Representatives, too. I like Obama, and have admired many of his speeches, but, as in past years, I will not tune in the State of the Union address. It's not the politics of the event, but the aesthetics that repulse me. I loathe the popping up and down of attendees in conjunction with certain rhetorical points, whether performed by the full assembly or limited to partisan supporters. It’s especially ludicrous with Joe Biden sitting next to John Boehner, two men whose current political scripts couldn’t differ more. It's like some silly adult version of Whack-a-Mole. I might look in only to see if Boehner’s skin is now darker than Obama’s. Another feature of these performances that keeps me away is the presence of sentimental totems in the gallery, a demonstration to the American people that the President really cares about plain folks and that he reads USA Today.

It’s not easy serving history. I set out today for the new location of Mission Chinese Food, at 171 East Broadway. Mission, the spawn of a successful San Francisco restaurant, first opened and closed on Orchard Street in less than a year, in spite of a very imaginative menu and being labeled "the most exciting restaurant of the year [2012]," by the New York Times’ restaurant critic. I visited on January 2, 2013, accompanied by some of the Boyz, and was not surprised that this space, rescued from behind and beneath a classic lower East Side tenement, was soon found wanting by health and safety authorities. When I learned that another iteration opened a month ago, I made it one of my New Year’s resolutions. The long walk from the courthouse took me to the foot of the old Forward building, once the home of the leading Yiddish newspaper among many. And, in line with many other new "hot" downtown joints, Mission is now open only for dinner. Admittedly, it’s in an odd location for normal lunchtime traffic (present company excluded), but I’m not convinced that there aren’t more than a few gourmands out there who prefer their MSG while the sun is still shining. 

Fortunately, I espied brand new King’s Kitchen, 92 East Broadway, on the outbound leg of my journey. Open only two months, King’s is a bright, busy place with 24 two-top tables, and comfortable padded chairs, almost all occupied. Most of the room is off-white with attractive orange accents. About one-quarter of the floor space is taken by a long, narrow prep space, where ducks and chickens are hung out to dry. There is also a kitchen in back. The menu is quite basic, focusing on rice dishes, congee and noodles. I tested the King, as I often do at a new joint, by asking for Singapore chow fun, unlisted but not far removed from "Singapore Style Curry Mei Fun." My choice came, using the broad noodle, at the same price as the mei fun angel hair noodle ($8.95). The portion was large and full of green pepper, red pepper, scallions, bean sprouts, shrimp, eggs, carrots, pork and mushrooms, cooked with the distinctive tangy curry powder.

Thursday, January 22, 2015
The sidewalks in front of the federal courthouse next door were crowded with reporters and camerapeople waiting for Sheldon Silver, New York State Assembly Speaker, to emerge after turning himself in on charges of bribery and extortion. Silver, arguably, has been the most powerful man in New York State politics for several decades, and took full advantage of that. One lone camera crew stood apart and they explained that they were covering another criminal case in the Moynihan Courthouse that has gotten little attention, but may have major international implications, the Silk Road case. Silk Road operated a web site that, in the words of the Associated Press, "allowed anonymous users to buy and sell illegal drugs, weapons and other illicit items." This wasn’t video games.

Friday, January 23, 2015
A strong-voiced preacher got onto the subway as I rode to work this morning. From 14th Street to Chambers Street, on the express, he exhorted us to follow the Way. While he spoke too loudly to allow me to concentrate on the New Yorker magazine, he explicitly precluded asking for money. As he preached intergroup tolerance and understanding, he concluded that the best way to learn about and appreciate other peoples was to eat their food. Amen, Brother! 

And, Amen, Sister!  America's Favorite Epidemiologist has successfully navigated a path through an overlong and complex renovation process, allowing us to recover possession of Palazzo di Gotthelf this weekend.  Normal life (as we understand it) will soon resume, thanks to her.

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Prophet And A Professor

Monday, January 12, 2015
Two Mississippi state legislators are filing a bill to make the Bible the state book, sitting alongside the largemouth bass (the state fish), the magnolia (the state flower) and the Teddy bear (the state toy).  I am all for it if it increases the demand for Hebrew teachers.
My appreciation for rugelach (no question about the spelling, but sometimes pronunciation shifts from short u to long u) has come late in life.  I have had a lifelong devotion to chocolate chip cookies, which may never be supplanted.  There was a time that I was obsessed with fig newtons, eating a whole package of Nabisco fig newtons at one sitting.  Nowadays, I am willing to go out of my way for superior rugelach.  It's very obvious why this has taken hold at this time.  For the past several years, I have become increasingly active in the affairs of West End Synagogue.  As a result, I have attended far more Jewish events than I ever did in the past.  While a Jewish religious service is easily distinguished from other gatherings, a non-ritualistic Jewish event is almost always characterized by three things – Diet Coke, decaffeinated coffee and rugelach.

Allow me to reflect on the first two elements, Diet Coke and decaffeinated coffee.  Jews are a hardy people, surviving thousands of years, facing oppression and genocide from many quarters, dispersed over foreign lands, yet we seem to retreat from full strength beverages.  We outlasted the Romans, the Tsars, the Nazis, all before the advent of Diet Coke and decaffeinated coffee, but we seem reluctant to face the future with sugar in our soda and caffeine in our coffee.  I can think of only one sensible reason for this.  Sugar and caffeine are stimulants, of a sort, providing extra energy.  Maybe Jews don't need that additional boost; maybe we are sufficiently aroused by the normal course of events; maybe we have developed highly-tuned defense mechanisms to deal with the threats that manage to find us.  The result is a fine biochemical balance, evolved over centuries, that may be thrown out of whack by those mid-XX Century inventions, Diet Coke and decaffeinated coffee.

Returning to rugelach: Right now, I recommend Zabar's Fresh Baked Rugelach ($10.95 a pound) as best in show, available at their bakery counter, not be confused with their Homestyle Rugelach, sold in a 14 oz. package for $9.98.  Zabar's is located at 2245 Broadway (at 80th Street).  While they have an extensive mail order operation, I don't think that fresh baked goods will remain at their peak after several days in transit.  For a look at the local rugelach scene, with reviews of many alternatives, see

Tuesday, January 13, 2015
The Boyz Club ate at Pho/Thanh Hoai 1, 73 Mulberry Street, on the theme of let bygones be bygones.  None of us served in Vietnam, which was not an outcome that we left to chance.  For lunch we shared cha gio (spring rolls with meat), cha gio chay (vegetarian spring rolls), goi ga (shredded chicken salad), com ga nuong (grilled chicken with rice) and com bo ba mon (three flavors of grilled beef with rice).  I thought that only the chicken was sub-par, better to have gotten the curry chicken that I had on my last visit.  In any case, it cost $15 per person total.

The questions for today included whether the state of relations between City Hall and the New York Police Department present a threat to the fundamental basis of civil society, and what would you do if you were a French Jew.  Faced with those problems, we skipped dessert.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Did you hear about the Jewish newspaper and the photograph of the world leaders?
This editorial action was deemed necessary when 11 yeshiva students were found pleasuring themselves over a picture of Angela Merkel.  The poor chaps are so isolated from everyday affairs, they thought that they were peeking at Angelina Jolie.

I have been going to Tasty Dumpling, 29 Mulberry Street, frequently because of its good and hot dumpling soup ($4.25 a quart with noodles, $4.50 without noodles leaving room for more dumplings).  Also, I recommend its bargain-priced scallion pancake ($1.50).  Today, I had the pancake with beef ($2), which is a sandwich, not at all a pancake.  The bread is half inch thick, dusted with sesame seeds, cut in a wedge close to a 6 inch equilateral triangle.  It is sliced through and contains slices of dried beef and shredded marinated carrots.  Very tasty.  With a small container of soup ($1.50 - $2) you have a very satisfying lunch.  Reminder – Tasty is not a place for a business lunch or a romantic tryst.

Thursday, January 15, 2015
I loved Walter Berns, who taught American constitutional law in the government department of Cornell University during the 1960s.  Although we disagreed about almost every political issue, we respected each other’s search for justice.  Berns was definitely not short for Bernstein, in spite of or because of which he was thoroughly philo-Semitic.  He was proud that his wife was Jewish and he studied with and associated with a group of scholars who were almost exclusively Jewish, although none of whom were likely to head a UJA fundraising drive.  When I returned from holiday visits to New York, he often asked me if I had any new Jewish jokes.  In the photograph of Berns printed today, Lincoln appropriately appears over one shoulder and Allan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind, behind the other. 
Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

Not Entirely Happy New Year

Monday, January 5, 2015
Today, I begin my sixth year in New York Supreme Court’s law department, a pool of attorneys supporting over 50 judges handling civil actions. It also marks the beginning of my sixth year exploring the restaurants of Chinatown during my lunch hour, an adventure that has resulted in eating in over 300 separate joints, separated in name, ownership, or location from each other or any antecedent. In the first year or so, I found three or four new restaurants every week without effort. Now, I patiently wait for spaces to be renovated or, at least, a new name appearing on the front door.

By contrast, today is marked by discontinuity at home, as the renovation of Palazzo di Gotthelf, necessitated by the flood we experienced in August, gets underway, and we take up temporary residence at the Hotel Lucerne on West 79th Street. Although we moved an ample collection of clothing over to the hotel yesterday, we spent one last night at home in order to meet and greet the carpenters this morning. We have to treat the next two weeks as a combination of something like an out-of-town business trip, a vacation from normal housekeeping duties and routine, and an extended faith healing session, that is, we must have faith that our wounded floors and psyches are soon healed.

The first Chinese restaurant that I went to on January 4, 2010 was Wah Kee, 150 Centre Street. When I went back to that location on July 19, 2011, it had become Red Square Café. By September 16, 2013, it had mutated into Maid Café NY, with waitresses dressed like French maids in a soft-core porno flick. While I chose to reach back on this anniversary, I skipped the frou-frou and went to Nom Wah Tea Parlor, 13 Doyers Street, the oldest dim sum joint in the United States. I had their "Original" egg roll, a fat cylinder of vegetables rolled several times in a thin crêpe-like wrapper, then deep fried, producing a very flaky casing. It differed from past visits (March 8, 2011, April 26, 2012, November 20, 2012, February 6, 2013) when the wrapper was closer to an omelet. Also, what cost $3.95 for two is now $7.

I also ordered shrimp and chive dumplings (3 for $4.25) which were very good, although they could have easily appeared on a vegetarian menu, in the absence of shrimp. True to its roots, Nom Wah offers a choice of teas – 10 varieties at $1 per person, and 8 premium varieties at $3 or $4. Unlike almost all other Chinatown restaurants, Nom Wah was populated mainly with tourists. I observed no Chinese truck drivers.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015
We awoke this morning at 79th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, exactly a half mile, 10 city blocks away from our normal home. The surrounding area is familiar; Zabar’s, Staples and Barnes & Noble are around the corner on Broadway. However, settling into the neighborhood, even for a short term, differs from passing by, and surprises have begun to appear. On the way to the subway this morning, I saw Voilà Chocolat, 221 West 79th Street, which labels itself a Chocolatiering Atelier. It provides opportunities for creating your own chocolate treats, alone in a serious fashion, or in groups, where giggles must surely mix with creativity. Voilà, open only two weeks, has the trademarked slogan, "Where Happiness Lives."

I went into Voilà after work. About 2/3 of the space is devoted to the work area, centered on a long white marble slab which is presumably conducive to having chocolate slopped all over it. No one was trying her hand at creative chocolate expression, and I had no intention of engaging in any do-it-yourself effort while a collection of truffles were on display for immediate purchase at $2 each. I bought five pieces, champagne, coffee, praline, banana rum and I-don’t-remember. Believe it or not, after a nice dinner, we allowed the five pieces to remain undisturbed, so I can’t comment on their quality. But, tomorrow is another day.

Here’s another one of those fascinating graphics-illustrated, data-intensive articles that the Times has been producing regularly, this time concerning how unemployed adults spend their time.

As in so many other areas, men and women differ. Men spend much of their waking hours watching television and movies, along with other leisure activities, while women are doing housework and caring for others. Generally, job hunting plays only a small role in the sample of 147 men and 147 women, even less a factor for the women, whether due to futility (the bleeding heart liberal view) or laziness (the cutthroat conservative view). Men spend more time on education, while women socialize more. As I understand it, reading things on the Internet and passing the information along to others, is registered under "Other leisure."

I was surprised to see Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, almost empty at midday, but pleased to recognize one of the few customers sitting alone in a booth. Dennis, an art historian, is a non-denominational believer, from a distant Roman Catholic background, who regularly visits West End Synagogue’s Saturday morning Torah study sessions. Of course, he was on jury duty, another version of the search for truth.

By coincidence, he had ordered pork egg foo young and brown rice just moments before I ordered shrimp egg foo young and brown rice even as I walked in the door. He has a lively mind and an appreciation of Chinese food, so our lunchtime proved highly satisfactory at several levels.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Speaking of dinner, although normally I keep my focus on lunch, last night we ate at Burke & Wills, 226 West 79th Street, which labels itself an Australian Bistro. With only a slight pause to consider adorableness, I ordered the ‘roo burger ($17); the kang is silent. First off, it doesn’t taste like chicken, or much like beef. The ground ‘roo came closest to the taste of a cafeteria meatloaf. Don’t regard that as entirely negative unless you spent three or four long years sitting alone in your high school cafeteria. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015
The terrible events in Paris yesterday were the result of a single-minded devotion to certainty, leaving no room for doubt, nuance, or hesitancy. Some orthodoxies and institutions deny educating their young in critical thinking. Is that a freedom of choice that a free society should not impinge upon?

I ate Voilà’s chocolates last night after dinner. Dinner, by the way, tasted like chicken. It was chicken. Actually, I had 3 truffles and my young bride had two. They were small, carefully made and subtly flavored, so much so that I-don’t-remember became I-can’t-tell. In summation, my faith in Teuscher’s champagne truffles or random pieces by Jacques Torres remains unshaken, and I don’t think that many sober adults want to get up to their elbows in chocolate. I think that it will soon be adieu to Voilà.

Friday, January 9, 2015
New York City is facing a crisis that, in some ways, is more dangerous than the current events in Paris. The Policeman’s Benevolent Association and other organizations representing police officers are actively hostile to Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration, because he admitted that he has cautioned his interracial teenage son about his behavior around police officers, and de Blasio has shown sympathy to public protests against the unpunished killings of unarmed black men by police. The dispute turned toxic when two police officers were assassinated in Brooklyn by a black man madly professing to be motivated by police misconduct. Now, police officers show overt disrespect for the mayor on otherwise solemn occasions, and have stopped doing their jobs to a large degree, using the excuse that their normal actions will evoke abnormal reactions. 

The PBA is remarkably tone deaf. It consistently fails to recognize a long-term national pattern of police conduct that has treated black lives, sometimes those of women and children as well as grown men, cheaply, a pattern that manifests itself in New York, too. Regardless of the weight of evidence, the PBA seems never to have detected even one bad apple in its barrel. Yes, it is a union, and solidarity is a virtue of union membership. However, effective policing ultimately requires more than a preponderance of force. Community trust and cooperation should ease the burden on the beat cop and provide greater security to the population. PBA leadership, by contrast, seems to propagate the divide in society, Them vs. Us.

Mayor de Blasio also is notoriously tone deaf in allowing Al Sharpton to appear as a de facto member of his administration. Sharpton, who has undergone an extraordinary and commendable physical transformation, remains, in my view, an ugly deterrent to effecting racial harmony. He has never stepped back from his shameful crusade in the Tawana Brawley matter, and his outrageous conduct there discredited him, in my eyes, in all subsequent public affairs. The fact that, today, the rich and the famous embrace him does little for my regard.

And, if I can’t stand Al Sharpton, imagine the feelings he arouses in the average cop.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Out With The Old

Monday, December 29, 2014
The New York Times Sunday Magazine had a 16-page insert from Google, reflecting on its year, or actually our year as Googlers.  The most frequently asked question worldwide, far outstripping anything else, was “What is love?”  I think that’s sad.

If you have read any of my prior musings, you know that I am obsessed with ethnicity and the role that it plays in my life and society at large.  Well, for the next several weeks, I have another obsession, renovations at Palazzo di Gotthelf.  On August 17th, we returned from an inspection tour of our grandchildren to find our entranceway, kitchen and parts of our living room and dining room under a couple of inches of water.  The insurance adjuster pronounced our entire wood parquet flooring a loss and authorized total replacement within a few days.  That was the easy part.  Getting the contractors to return our telephone calls (actually, America’s Favorite Epidemiologist stepped right up as project manager and handled almost all the ensuing and exhausting details), to appear as scheduled, to provide written estimates, to submit the paperwork required by local authorities, and to commit to a start date took months.  So, today, hundreds of feet of new wood flooring was delivered for installation beginning one week from today.  The project is estimated to last up to two weeks.  Accordingly, next Sunday, we will relocate to a hotel nearby, paid for by our insurer under the terms of our homeowners’ policy. 

I don’t believe that I will be able to endure the next few weeks without some additional display of grumpiness, although eating dinner out 7 nights a week, having my bed made and the linen changed everyday, while living in a suite with two large screen television sets, should breed some tranquility.  On the other hand, throughout this period, we will be denied the secret of our marital bliss – separate bathrooms.  

Getting to the courthouse late today, after waiting for the lumber delivery, allowed me to enjoy one of the great advantages of my job, aside from the obvious virtues of being employed and collecting a paycheck: tourists.  Located adjacent to Chinatown (the greatest advantage), Little Italy, the Lower East Side, the Brooklyn Bridge, City Hall and awfully close to Wall Street, Ground Zero and Ground Discount (Century 21 Department Store), the courthouse area attracts tourists from all over the world.  This morning, as I walked up the steps (the familiar setting for so many scenes from Law & Order), I espied a man in a cowboy hat with tzitzit dangling from under his coat.  Tzitzit are knotted fringes on the edges of prayer shawls, worn by most male Jews at synagogue services (and many women in our congregation of anarchic Jews), and on the edges of an undergarment worn by many Orthodox Jews at all times, predating Mormon underwear by a couple of millennia. 

The man, I soon learned, was from Dallas, and he was leading a group of 23 Texas Jewish high school kids.  A few of the boys were also wearing cowboy hats.  I realized that these observant Jews, holding to the customary (not legal) requirement of keeping their head covered, wore cowboy hats in order to fit in better with their local community where a yarmulke (Yiddish) or kippah (Hebrew) would be viewed as quite eccentric.  However, here they were in New York City where yarmulkes abound and the nearest Stetson is on the Naked Cowboy in Times Square.  

I recognized Anna and Thomas Fiamingo as tourists by the travel guide next to their tray at Tasty Dumpling, 28 Mott Street, when I sat down to share the table with them, at lunchtime.  They are both lawyers in Milan, Italy, on vacation.  I expressed my admiration for almost things Italian, politicians aside, and briefly listed the various cities and regions that I enjoyed visiting over the decades.  This was not their first trip to America, and they had their favorite places, as well.  You might not want to tell Chris Christie, but I discouraged them from visiting Atlantic City, even for a day, because it is a sad place pockmarked with bankrupt casinos.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014
The tourist parade continues.  This morning, I got into a crowded, but immobile, elevator in the courthouse and said to the group of young people patiently standing there that, around here, you have to push a button to get the elevator to move.  With that, I learned that these dozen kids were law students from France.  I took them up to the fifth floor, where I perch, and explained that, in this holiday period, nothing was happening in any of the courtrooms in this large building.  I tried to  explain briefly, as I also tried yesterday to the Fiamingos, that almost every building in sight was a courthouse at some level of authority, federal, state, city or county, a multi-tiered approach that inevitably confuses professionals from other venues, which may be its purpose.  Combining my native English language facility with the command of French that earned me a 71 on the high school regents exam during the Eisenhower administration, I directed them to the criminal courthouse at 100 Centre Street, where arraignments take place on something approaching a 24/7 basis.  I also suggested a stroll on the nearby Brooklyn Bridge, affording a great few of the harbor and part of the skyline, then bade them “au revoir et bonne chance.”

Vietnam’s former status as a French colony had no influence on my choice of Thanh Hoai 1 (sometimes Pho Thanh Hoai 1), 73 Mulberry Street, for lunch.  When I went there last week (December 24, 2014), just days after it opened, the joint was empty when I walked in and I ordered only a big bowl of Pho, the signature Vietnamese beef noodle soup, in response to the cold, wet weather.  Today, it was even colder, but dry.  About 2/3 of the many tables were occupied, and I moved a step into the menu, ordering Com Ga Xao Cari, curry chicken on fried rice ($8.95, $2 more than with white rice).  The two medium mounds of food made one large and very tasty pile when mushed together.  The thick threads of chicken were cooked with green peppers, red, green and yellow onions in a sauce that was more spicy than curried.  With a pot of hot tea, I felt well warmed and nourished.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Wednesdays, the New York Times includes a section on food and dining.  Today, at year’s end, it has an article on the10 best new restaurants –
My excuse for not having been to any of them is fairly credible; none are Chinese or on the Upper West Side where I live.  But, don’t let that stop you.

Thursday, January 1, 2015
A map-publishing subsidiary of HarperCollins decided that including Israel in its “Collins Primary Geography Atlas For The Middle East” would have been “unacceptable” to their Arab customers and that leaving Israel off the maps incorporated “local preferences.”  That’s one way to solve a problem.  

There's emergency surgery and there's elective surgery.  Today, I underwent a painful session of let's-make-it-a-bit-easier-for-the-carpenters-and-painters-who-start-work-on-Monday-and-do-I-really-need-all-that-stuff surgery, which cut deeply into my heart and soul.  Removed were 200-300 books, monographs, novels, biographies, travel guides and collections going back to my college days.  I've purged before, but, in the past, I was moving on, literally and figuratively, which offered practical and symbolic justification for my divestment.  Now, however, I expect to return in a few weeks to our renovated premises, nicer looking no doubt, but displaying a much less interesting and idiosyncratic picture of one of its inhabitants, at least, as afforded by the bookshelves.  

Also, jettisoned was a random collection of street and road maps to places that I have visited over the last four decades -- Napa Valley, Brussels, Arizona, Coventry, Buenos Aires, New Orleans, Sicily, Shanghai, Amboise, Prague. I made sure not to linger over this material, else I would never get to the bottom of the pile.  Instead, I need time to allow the wounds to heal.

Friday, January 2, 2015
One might think that staying home would be more therapeutic than going to work, but it wasn’t for me.  Even before a scab could form over my surgical scar, the wound was ripped wide open.  We had a group (engaged by the insurance company) to pack up our belongings to allow the carpenters and painters to move around the estate freely.  First they* came for the books, then they came for the maps.  Today, they came for all the programs for plays, concerts, dance performances, talks and any other gathering memorialized in print that I attended since 1980.  It was the proverbial five foot shelf, representing hundreds of evenings sitting in the dark.  No doubt, there is a collector somewhere who seeks such memorabilia and I shall direct him or her to the proper bin behind the Palazzo di Gotthelf, if I can bear the pain of standing upright.

*Poetic license; I did all the trashing myself.