Friday, May 29, 2015

Wise Guy?

Monday, May 25, 2015
The joke's on me twice, apparently.  Every Monday, including our wedding anniversary, the New York Times prints the "Metropolitan Diary," a half dozen anecdotes and observations by readers about New York life.  Today, I was particularly interested in the tale of a motorist, driving across 66th Street, who was flagged down by two pedestrians, indicating that smoke was coming from under the hood of his car.  One of the men was wearing a work shirt from an automotive dealer and he offered to help, after calling his boss, for $380. This friendly guy took the money, crawled under the car, jiggled and jangled, and commended the driver upon his good luck encountering him in time of need.  The driver later suffered his friends' derision for being played a sucker.

So, about a year ago, as Ken Klein is my witness, I was driving across 70th Street when first one then another guy on the sidewalk waved his arms and pointed to the front of my car.  Sure enough, one of the guys was an auto mechanic, but his telephone conversation with his boss only cost me $180.  He crawled under the car, jiggled and jangled, and told me how fortunate I was that he was crossing the street as I approached, because the potholes had shaken so many things loose under the hood of my car.

That's only the first joke.  Prudently, I took the car into the local Lexus dealer a day later to have everything bolted down solid.  How wise I was, the chief mechanic told me.  The car needed advanced jiggling and jangling, costing $2,200.  Too bad I did not read today’s paper last year.

Over the weekend, the Times had a story on the intersection of two of my favorite diversions, sports and crossword puzzles.
It pointed out that Mel Ott, who starred for the New York (baseball) Giants for over 20 years, “is quite simply the greatest baseball player who ever lived,” at least measured by his 151 appearances in the Times crossword puzzle since 1993.  Obviously, it is the utility of Ott’s name that earned him this distinction, while the supremely-skilled Joe DiMaggio fit into the little squares only twice.  Success in this realm depends on both recognizability and spelling.  Steffi Graf, Yes – Martina Navratilova, No.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
I went to Taste of Northern China, 88 East Broadway, when it first opened in the tiny space formerly occupied by Xi'an Famous Foods (May 19, 2014).  Since then, it has expanded by adding a long and narrow canvas and Lucite sidewalk shed containing two snack tables and 5 knee-high stools.  Inside, there are 8 (bar-height) stools up against a 9" deep ledge.  Three people are crowded behind the counter preparing the food, including a woman hand pulling noodles, supposedly culturally prohibited, although I am unable to find authority for that.  

I ordered a rolled egg pie ($3) and boiled lamb dumplings ($7 in spite of the menu saying $5).  No diet soda was available.  The rolled egg pie was an eggy crêpe rolled around some crunchy green vegetables.  At first, it tasted hearty enough that I thought there was meat inside, but none appeared when I unrolled it.  A good snack.  The dozen dumplings were good also, although they benefitted by a squirt of soy sauce or hot sauce.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015
This morning, as I left the elevator at the ground floor, a young man entered pushing a cart laden with boxes and stuff.  When I heard him ask for the 17th floor with a slight accent, I stuck my head back into the cab and asked “Are you Gotthelf?  From Israel?”  With a slight stutter of hesitation, he said Yes.  I extended my hand and announced that I am Gotthelf from 17P.  He, of course, is a (one T) Gothelf from Israel whose parents bought apartment 17M late last year in order to try the patience of the Post Office.  We didn’t have time to chat, but I told (warned) him that I would seek him out in the next few days.

Dear friend Tom Adcock, inspired by articles in today’s Times about flabby arms and authenticating Hermès handbags, provided these words of wisdom from his late mother-in-law: “Newspapers are full of stories about white people trying to have problems.”
I never said that Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, was perfect.  As with every human enterprise, it is flawed.  However, it is the best at what it does -- serve large portions of classic Chinatown cuisine at reasonable prices.  That's why I eat there once a week on the average.  Accordingly, I encounter a significant flaw regularly, the other side of the coin of one of its virtues. large portions.  Wo Hop does not offer lunch specials or half portions of its dishes.  So, if I want that exquisite combination of shrimp with lobster sauce and fried rice, I have to pay $15.25 plus $7.25 and get more food than even I can manage. 
Last week, discussing this problem with one of the waiters whom I have spent more time with in the last five years than any of my relatives without a doctorate in epidemiology, he offered a solution.  A heaping plate of fried rice with a modest portion of shrimp with lobster sauce on top, 5 jumbo shrimp, $14 total.  This wonderful combination could easily feed two normal human beings, as I was reminded when I made all gone this afternoon again. 
Friday, May 29, 2015
Inspired by the fund-raising success of the Clinton Foundation, I have agreed to make certain public appearances in exchange for donations of chocolate chip cookies, rugelach, seven layer cake and/or babka to the Hungry Grandpa Fund. 

Since it is fitting to have coffee with any of these treats, this map will show us the national distribution of Starbucks vs. Dunkin' Donuts.
 What an exciting few days ahead.  The second and third generations are visiting for the weekend.  That means that the Palazzo di Gotthelf will be carpeted with children, toys, discarded clothing and half-eaten Cheerios.  In exchange, they will learn to chant “Let’s go, Rangers!” as the puck is dropped on game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals of the National Hockey League at 8 PM.  Poor children will have to go to bed before the game progresses too far.  Grandpa Alan will make every effort to approach breakfast tomorrow morning with equanimity, teaching them to accept victory/defeat with grace.  Better victory.
To prepare for this weekend's increased population density, I went to Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, for lunch.  That block-long dim sum joint is always crowded, and today there was the added presence of the "Chinese Retirees Club Local 23 - 25," 30 tables each packed with 10 people, taking up about 1/3 of the restaurant's floor space.  They had entertainment along with their buns, dumplings, noodles and stir fries.  I left as an intense man was concluding "My Way," in English with a Chinese accent.  Indubitably, his way. 


  1. I think Booby Orr of the Boston Bruins has also appeared numerous times in Xword puzzles.

  2. I hope the grandchildren learned how to accept defeat graciously.

  3. I hope the grandchildren learned how to accept defeat graciously.