Friday, June 26, 2015

Open Sesame

Monday, June 22, 2015
I spend a lot of time at West End Synagogue, and not all of it eating. I was, therefore, able to recognize an error in biblical history in a profile about a Brooklyn nun who is devoted to work among the poor. The New York Times wrote (in print), "Ms. Martinez de Luco likes to cite a biblical passage from Leviticus in which Jesus tells farmers to leave some fallen grain behind for the needy." Even I know that Leviticus is the third book of the Torah, together the five books of Moses, the Hebrew Bible. While it describes earlier events, it is considered to have been written 500 to 600 hundred years before Jesus appeared. He was definitely not in the original cast. When I went to the on-line version of the article on Sunday, I found, "Ms. Martinez de Luco likes to cite a biblical passage from Leviticus in which farmers are told to leave some fallen grain behind for the needy." Obviously, someone from the Times got religion overnight.

My favorite idiot of the week:
"Houston-based lawyer Charles Cotton, listed as a national NRA board member . . . said that one of the nine people slain, church pastor and [South Carolina] Democratic state Senator Clementa Pinckney, had voted against legislation in 2011 that would have allowed concealed possession of handguns in restaurants, day-care centers and churches. ‘Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead,’ Cotton wrote."

Not far behind is "Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry [who] on Friday suggested the fatal shooting of nine black people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white male was a drug-induced ‘accident.’"

Honorable mention to several Fox commentators who claim that the South Carolina massacre was an attack on Christianity.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Amazon joined Walmart, Sears, Kmart and eBay in announcing that it would stop selling Confederate flag decorated merchandise. If you think that’s just a couple of T-shirts, think again. According to the New York Times, "[s]uch items numbered more than 29,000 on the Amazon website Tuesday morning, including bikinis, shower curtains, ceramic coasters, cupcake toppers and a tongue ring." That blows my Hanukkah gift list sky high.

The Four Seasons, 99 East 52nd Street, is my favorite restaurant. The food, the service, the setting are all superior. However, my visits have become much more infrequent over the decades as my work and residence have moved further away. So, I am only mildly saddened at the news that it will move after 57 years because of a rent increase of over 5 times. My memories of good times there are now older than my favorite shoes.

The landlord explained his thinking about the future of the space in the current issue of the New Yorker. "You want to have the guy coming to the Four Seasons who has the ripped jeans and a T-shirt equally as much as you want the guy with the Tom Ford suit." Well, no. While I don’t wear Tom Ford because he doesn’t make anything in XXL, I find the guy in ripped jeans usually acceptable company only in a subway car. (I exclude honest working men and women who must toil in sharp-edged or abrasive surroundings.)

I know it’s all about free choice and the market, but choosing to wear rags, as opposed to having no choice but, is, I freely choose to say, stupid. And ugly, too. What of the rationale that the wearer is disdainful of fashion, freed from the bourgeois concerns surrounding appearance? OK. Then, explain why Dolce & Gabbana sells "ripped denim jeans" for $537 (marked down from $895), Les Hommes "slim distressed jeans" for $352, and MCQ Alexander Mcqueen "distressed slim fit jeans" for $250 (marked down from $500).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
In the past, I attempted systematic evaluations of scallion pancakes and Peking duck in Chinatown. Now, with summer fully upon us, I will pursue cold sesame noodles hither and yon. I thought that I would take a structured approach, working my way up Mott Street, traditional Chinatown's Main Street. I was thwarted immediately when I found that Noodle Village, 13 Mott Street, in spite of its name, did not serve cold sesame noodles. I moved on to the Mother Church, Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, skipping Wo Hop City, 15 Mott Street, where, for the only time in the last 5 1/2 years, I stopped eating a dish after a few bites and left without paying – cold sesame noodles (July 6, 2010). However, (the good) Wo Hop was overcrowded, and I would have to wait halfway up the stairs to get in. So, I continued to Shanghai Asian Manor, 21 Mott Street, also full, but I decided to stay when I spotted a couple in a booth pulling out currency.

Good move. The cold sesame noodles ($4.75) were excellent. Lots of thick, gooey sesame sauce, although the total portion was barely medium-sized. It also lacked that sprinkling of sesame seeds on top, but it still tasted wonderful. It will be hard to do better, but duty calls me to walk these streets, these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.

The weather is gorgeous today, and my simple lunch gave me time to linger in Columbus Park. The most northeastern corner of the park was occupied by an avid musical ensemble – a (European) violin, a tenor saxophone, a banjo, an Erhu (the two-stringed Chinese fiddle), and a flute, backing up an intense altoish female singer. The results were interesting, what would five musicians and a vocalist sound like if they had nothing in common?

Thursday, June 25, 2015
Robert Sietsma, formerly food critic for the Village Voice and author of The Food Lover's Guide to The Best Ethnic Eating in NYC, has an updated list of cheap restaurants for those of you garbed neither in a Tom Ford suit or ripped jeans. He is worth regarding.

His list includes only two (Manhattan) Chinatown spots, XO Kitchen, 148 Hester Street (July 2, 2010, January 15, 2014), and Big Hing Wong Restaurant, 300 Grand Street, and there some confusion ensues. On May 12, 2011, I reported that I went to Big Wing Wong at that address, the same name as a joint at 102 Mott Street, which later changed its name (Big Wing Wong on May 6, 2010, 102 Noodles Town on June 15, 2012). So, I walked over to 300 Grand Street to settle the name issue. There I found a busy Big Hing Hong. All 11 tables were occupied, if only by 1 or 2 people. The very large menu has about 40 lunch specials at $5.75, including soup and white rice. I skipped that and ordered dim sum, a dozen items for $2.25 or $2.50, prepared to order. I had dried shrimp rice noodles, steamed buns and pan fried vegetable buns. All of them were very good, freshly made and hot, not lukewarm from circling a big room on a cart. The four steamed buns were actually small soup buns. A couple of the staff knew English well enough to deny that the name had ever been Big Wing Wong, as I once thought. Of course, I am omitting Big Wong a/k/a Big Wong King, 67 Mott Street, from this discussion. 

Friday, June 26, 2015
I'm not sure whether to look to sociology, theology or psychology to understand the conduct of radical Muslims. Everyday on almost every continent, they are responsible for violent episodes that often don't discriminate in their victims. Their co-religionists probably have physically suffered at their hands more than any other group, and unquestionably bear the brunt of the scorn, fear and worse from the rest of us. 

The nihilism of radical Muslims seems to result from the tenacity of modern civilization in opposition to their romantic visions of ancient Caliphates. The last time that we shared common ground might have been the seventh century. No, I don't have an answer.

I resumed my sesame noodle review at Hop Lee, 16 Mott Street. It distinguished itself from Shanghai Asian Manor by serving a heaping plate of noodles, with sesame seeds scattered on top ($6.95). The only problem was the flat taste, lacking that wonderful salty/sweet peanut butter flavor that normally elevates this dish to culinary heights. I left over about 1/3. Not recommended.

I intend to eat cold sesame noodles twice a week throughout the summer, if possible, and report my findings.  More than that might be almost as foolish as having Chinese food for lunch everyday. 

Obamacare and same-sex marriage, two historic decisions by the US Supreme Court, back to back. Both decisions will inevitably wind up in constitutional law case books for law students, and produce learned commentaries. It's the other voices that interest me. Among politicians, opposition to one often seems to correspond to opposition to the other. While their arguments may be cloaked in fancy language, their message too often boils down to -- I have it, but you can't. 

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