Monday, March 16, 2015
I'm a week late on this, but I want to reflect on an article in the Times about leaving your psychotherapist. The article itself was just so-so but the circumstances of such a divorce are bound to be interesting. I was taken back over 40 years to the first time that I visited a psychotherapist. It was around the time that I got married, for the first time, in Los Angeles. My wife was born abroad, and did not display a particularly California mentality. Yet, New York style, my New York style especially, was foreign to her. She was puzzled and/or annoyed that one adult (male) would mock or deride another, out loud at least. Actually, this was New York male behavior that was inculcated as soon as you set foot in your neighborhood schoolyard, PS 159, in my case. We called it "ranking." I believe urban African-Americans refer to it as "playing the dozens." I have also heard it referred to as "sounding." Once I graduated to the increasingly competitive realms of Stuyvesant High School and CCNY, ranking was as natural to me as riding the subway. None of this "I love you, man," business. We didn't bro hug even our bros. Today, trash talking is universal, although matched with unnecessary shows of affection by tattooed behemoths.
In any case, my wife was very annoyed by my frequent, aggressive unflattering references to many people around me, including people whom I otherwise didn't seem to have a quarrel with. I agreed to see a psychologist in order to address my conduct, and bring peace home. A doctor who treated me and whose computer, in turn, I treated recommended a psychologist, and I faithfully made an appointment.
I recall that the psychologist was a nice man, about 10 years older than I. In our first meeting, I started filling him in on my background, who and what I was. I still remember telling him about the time spent with my dear friend Andy Persily, when we were both single, living in New York, he with his father in Greenwich Village, I with my parents in Woodhaven, Queens. I had a secondary school teaching job at the time, and I would get home a few minutes after 3, take a nap and drive into Manhattan for an evening in search of truth, beauty and love, but more often just walking around the Village with Andy. I explained to the shrink that I naturally drove into Manhattan crossing the Williamsburg Bridge off the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, not the Queens Midtown Tunnel (a toll), not the 59th Street Bridge (too far uptown), not the Brooklyn Bridge (too far downtown), not the Manhattan Bridge (awkward on and off). Street parking after 6 PM on a weeknight was allowed, so I never resorted to a garage, an alternative that would have turned me around back to Queens.
I had to give him all this detail because he wasn't from New York; he wasn't even Jewish. And, that’s what was wrong. I would have to spend thousands of dollars educating him on New York geography, no less New York manners and mores. Lord knows how long it would take to get to my psyche when we had so much other ground to cover. Of course, it wasn’t just the sharing of an information/experience base that would prepare him to deal with me; I needed to know about him. How would he get from Woodhaven to Greenwich Village? Was he the type to stop and smell the roses, taking a route on a whim or for its scenic value, ignoring the clock? Was he a spendthrift, willing to pay the extravagant toll on the tunnel just to save a minute or two? Was he overly curious or indecisive, unable to settle on one route? But, how would I ever know anything about him if he lacked the grounding in the details that defined my existence? I think that I went back one more time, but then never returned. Admittedly, ending such a flimsy relationship did not evoke separation anxiety, but you never know.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Chi Dumpling House, 77 Chrystie Street, was C&L Dumpling House when I first ate there (January 13, 2011). An outside sign still carries the old name. The menu seems much the same except for the addition of 15 "Chef’s Specials," all familiar concoctions at $7.50. As has often happened before, I ordered some of the same things as I had one change of name ago. The fried dumplings (5 for $1.50) again were excellent. The thick, doughy scallion pancake ($1) still resembled "a warmed scallion bialy," and added more bulk to my lunch than I needed. I also had chicken fried rice ($4), which was a side dish in search of a main course. I came away full, but knew that I had not ordered wisely.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Happy Anniversary to Me! I started working for the New York State court system 13 years ago today. It was my first paying job after law school, and the opportunity was presented to me by the Honorable Marjory D. Fields, Acting Justice of the Supreme Court. Justice Fields, whom I knew from college days, hired me as her junior law clerk, although, for budgetary reasons, I was listed and paid (not very much) as a stenographer. Now, identified as an associate court attorney (a level between principal court attorney and senior court attorney), and paid a decent salary, I have been employed here about twice as long as at any place prior.
To celebrate, I went to Yeah Shanghai Deluxe, 50 Mott Street (February 19, 2010, July 12, 2010, April 12, 2011, November 6, 2103, September 19, 2013, May 8, 2013, June 12, 2013). Because of its commanding position at the corner of Mott Street and Bayard Street and the bright, attractively decorated premises, Yeah could easily be taken for a tourist joint. However, the near full house contained slightly more Chinese patrons than not, and, as indicated by my frequent visits over the years, it’s the real thing. I came to Yeah for Peking duck, Mottzar Kitchen my favorite duckery having closed down. The half duck ($22) was excellent, as fat free as I have ever seen in Chinatown. It came with 4 pancakes, hoisin sauce, slivers of cucumber and green onion, the classic arrangement.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
First Stop, 124A Hester Street would properly be called a hole in the wall if it were not on a corner (at Chrystie Street). It’s very small, three low tables and an assortment of low stools. It probably gets its name from its location amidst a raft of Chinatown bus companies, a thriving industry unknown to many round eyes. Chinatown bus companies, almost all headquartered in the less gentrified area of Chinatown around Chrystie Street, East Broadway, and Allen Street, originated as a service for Chinese restaurant workers, scattered throughout the Eastern United States, who used their one or two days off to shop and visit in New York City. After all, bamboo shoots and Szechuan peppercorns are not often found on the supermarket shelves of Roanoke, Virginia. Low, low prices are needed for this market and the signs outside the many operations list just about every city east of the Mississippi river, with prices $40 or less. Today, college students and other members of the underclass use these buses as well. Thus, emerging onto the streets of the Big Apple, the First Stop might seem like an appropriate, well First Stop.
The welcome offered by First Stop is actually quite modest. There is no menu, but a set of color pictures in the window display the choices. I asked for fried dumplings, but they were out. I ordered then the spicy noodle soup ($7) to deal with the cold weather that returned this week, and I got the hottest spiciest dish that I have every had in Chinatown. The bowl was thick with beef, yellow and green onions, glass noodles, cabbage, two kinds of sausage and an ingredient or two that I can’t put a name on, in a broth whose red pepper flakes could not be avoided. My feeling is that this dish was, as we say in old Shanghai, sui generis. I think that the next time, the cook will empty a different part of his refrigerator when someone orders spicy noodle soup. And good luck to you.
If you were wondering what America’s Favorite Epidemiologist was doing while one of her two favorite husbands was running around eating lunch, check out the latest issue of Arthritis & Rheumatology, wherein she determined that prolonged exposure to the ruins of the World Trade Center was linked to an increase in various autoimmune diseases including arthritis and lupus. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/art.39059/abstract;jsessionid=E8D0562FE88A7B45F191A1703B207E5C.f02t04?
Friday, March 20, 2015
It's the first day of Spring, which did not stop the snow from falling for several hours. It also Macaron Day. http://macarondaynyc.com/
15 bakeries are offering one free macaron to each customer, and proceeds from sales thus stimulated will go City Harvest, an organization that distributes food to the needy. I realize that by the time that you read this, and even by the time that I finishing writing this, the moment will have passed. Sorry, but I only learned of this event last night, so I had no time to jiggle my schedule to take advantage of this largesse. However, it's not too early to plan for next year, when the first day of Spring will be Sunday, March 20th (Leap Year, you know), which gives us all day (after Mass) to scurry around for the free goodies. For those who follow the old-time-religion, be aware that Passover, when our attention turns from macarons to macaroons, doesn't begin until the following weekend.
August Gatherings, 266 Canal Street, is about one month old, replacing Canal Best Restaurant. It is attractively decorated, suggesting the interior of a temple, Buddhist not Reform. It has 7 round tables and 8 four tops, all occupied today at lunchtime. Much like Yeah the other day, more than half the customers were Chinese, although the restaurant was in a prime tourist location, two doors from McDonald's. I ordered duck chow fun ($9), which was not explicitly on the menu, but was suggested by the presence of duck lo mei fun and duck lai fun, spaghetti-like egg noodles or rice noodles. The portion was medium-sized, and, if not for the real estate, I would have knocked at least one dollar off the price. August also offers lunch specials for $6 to $8.50, all with rice. Service was friendly and efficient. Note that it is the third new restaurant that I found this week.
Speaking of synchronicity, August has a small counter right inside the entrance selling macarons from Macaron Parlour Patisserie (111 St. Marks Place and 500 Columbus Avenue), one of the Macaron Day participants. Unfortunately, the lovely young woman at the counter was unaware of how special today was, so I had to pay retail, with no free samples. But, since the covey of macarons that I purchased are destined to delight and reward America's Favorite Epidemiologist, I completed the transaction without cavil.