Friday, September 25, 2015

“Even white people — and I say that lovingly — know good Chinese food.”

Monday, September 21, 2015
A persistent image during the Jewish High Holy Days is the Book of Life, closing for the old year and opening for the new year. The interim between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the time for the ink to dry in the new volume. So, I have to complete my work for 5775 in order to move ahead to 5776, that is conclude my reviews of cold sesame noodles. Before uttering my last word, I had to return to where I begun, Shanghai Asian Manor, 21 Mott Street (June 24, 2015), to make sure that my very positive impression was still warranted. 

Maybe the word got out from my last visit, because the joint was packed. I had to wait for a spot at one of the five booths, two large round tables, six four-tops or two two-tops. Usually, I don’t wait to be seated in Chinatown, given the raft of alternatives. However, I was on a mission with a very tight time constraint. So, I waited and got a booth to myself.

The portion of noodles was medium-sized, topped with slivered pea pods and bamboo shoots ($4.75). No sesame seeds were visible, but the sauce was superb.

I asked for extra sauce (after taking the picture) to ensure that every noodle strand was amply coated. In conclusion, I am confident pronouncing the cold sesame noodles at Shanghai Asian Manor best after sampling about 20 versions, and finding an equal or greater number of places not serving it. Note that the soup buns and scallion pancakes here are also excellent. Honorable mention to Kori Tribeca, 253 Church Street (July 30, 2015) for Japchae, the wonderful sweet potato noodles stir fried in sesame oil, served only as a side dish.

Thanks to Cindy McMullen for forwarding this interesting history of New York Chinese food.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Tonight begins Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. We are supposed to approach it having tried to square personal (non-financial) accounts with others (even when the rats don’t deserve apologies). The following, recommended by America’s Favorite Epidemiologist, offers a good discussion of apology in this context.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination yesterday. This offers President Obama and the American people a wonderful opportunity to handle a very difficult situation. Walker, an early favorite in the race, campaigned on his resolve in meeting an intractable foe. Responding to a question abut ISIS, he said: "If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the globe." The protestors were school teachers and other public employees rallying in the state capital against budget cuts and restrictions on union activities. Now, Obama should conscript Walker to take on ISIS and win the everlasting gratitude of the American people. No doubt Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld would rush to join Walker and continue their unrivaled record on the international scene. U!S!A!

I never heard of Daniel Thompson until I read his obituary in today’s paper.
I don’t fault his inventiveness, but the result was to make something special into something ordinary. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015
I spend Yom Kippur following traditional patterns of behavior, for the most part. I don’t eat; I don’t drink. I shut my smartyphone from sundown to sundown. I don’t turn on a radio or television, although I recall, as a boy, standing in front of the window of an appliance store on Pitkin Avenue watching World Series games. I spend several hours in the synagogue. I do, however, read the newspaper, which is delivered to the front gate of the Palazzo di Gotthelf. There were several items worthy of attention, and I had to keep them in mind in order to write about them once the holiday was over, writing another activity avoided in the 27+ hour period.

First, there is the question of what is sport, posed by the pending decision in Her Majesty’s High Court of Justice in London, England. Great Britain has an entity that helps finance sports, and it has been asked to support contract bridge.

Decades ago, I played at the lowest level of bridge tournaments and came to know some champions at the game. Competitive bridge, where matches go on for days, requires mental and physical endurance, as well as the ability to deduce who holds the missing king. I view bridge as a sport, unlike the sheer displays of athleticism in synchronized swimming or ice dancing, which unfortunately occupy time and space at the Olympics. Bridge, akin to baseball, soccer, polo, hockey, basketball and such allows easy determination of a victor. More – more runs, more goals, more points – tricks in bridge. Grandson Boaz, nearing 7 3/4, would have no trouble announcing a contest winner. Even races, which are won by less – less time – would not challenge this child, even were he not brighter than average. Boaz can tell time and he can subtract, end time minus start time. No style points; no judges applying opaque standards that are often bent by geopolitical considerations.

Next, is the Volkswagen scandal. While I never forgave nor forgot, my first automobile bought new was a VW Beetle. It was trouble-free, so I retain a good impression of the brand. Now, however, VW has admitted that 11 million diesel-powered cars were rigged to cheat on air pollution tests.

Unique about this story is the sheer magnitude of the deception and its Teutonic efficiency. Because the fraud crossed several VW models and the Audi make as well for lots of years, the number of defective vehicles appears to exceed other manufacturers’ willful negligence. Although General Motors’ ignition switch death toll is at least 124, VW has merely poisoned the air all around the world. The character of VW’s crime is special by design. GM, and other negligent manufacturers, typically chose a cost-cutting approach in some physical component, or ignored bad results associated with some physical component. VW rigged software to operate unattended during emissions testing, changing the flow of pollutants while under scrutiny. Once freed from the oppressive hands of government (Boo!) regulators, the engines resumed pumping out exhaust dozens of times more noxious than registered during testing, and far above acceptable limits. Imagine if that quality of engineering were applied to something other than improving profits at any cost.

Believe it or not, "Happy Birthday to You" (the song) was still under copyright protection until yesterday.
So, get out the hats and horns, light the candles and sing your heads off.

For those of you in the Western hemisphere not situated in or near New York City or San Francisco, Chinese food may mean Panda Express, with over 1,800 outlets. Until now, it has not made any inroads here, where there are four Chinatowns, all continuing to grow.

Time will tell if Panda’s factory output will succeed here, but I hope that they are not counting on my participation.

Finally, the following column discusses the widening gap in educational achievement between rich and poor, even as the gap between black and white children decreases (although far from disappearing).

Even if we and our families are fortunate enough to fall on the "good" side of this divide, do we want our children and grandchildren to grow up and function in such a stratified society? Isn’t a broadly educated populace beneficial to all? Don’t I sound silly even expressing this?

Thursday, September 24, 2015
During Yom Kippur services, Rabbi Marc Margolius, the deservedly popular leader of West End Synagogue, announced that the Hattan Torah-Kallat Bereishit (the Groom and Bride of the Torah) celebration for the new year of 5776 improbably places me in the role of the groom. While I have held a Torah scroll every so often during services, and have read from it aloud in Hebrew twice as an adult, my connections to its contents are ephemeral, at best. I respect the Torah’s staying power, and the hold that it maintains on many Jews. However, as I pointed out to Rabbi Margolius when he told me privately of the forthcoming designation, I am proud to be a Jew, but I don’t want my life and my choices to be viewed as a reflection on Jewish doctrines, beliefs or practices, although my devotion to Chinese food may have a tribal basis.

In any case, the celebration will be held on Saturday, October 24th, at West End Synagogue, 190 Amsterdam Avenue (at 69th Street, 1, 2 or 3 train to 72nd Street). Prayer services begin at 10:00 AM, Torah readings at 11:00 AM, Kiddush (lunch [lox will be served]) at 12:30 PM, speeches at 1:30 PM. Note that I am privileged to have as my bride Dr. Evelyn Attia, immediate past president of West End Synagogue, and professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center (what more appropriate a match?).

If you are within the sound of my pen, please come to this event (at least from lunch onward) regardless of your affiliation or distance from any religion, creed, ethical system, or favorite baseball team. Also, whether you are able to join us or not, I shamelessly ask you to write a check to West End Synagogue, 190 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10023, in the amount of $18. The number 18 in Hebrew is called "chai" (pronounced hi, with a little phlegm on the H), not to be confused with the spicy milk tea of India. Chai is also the Hebrew word for Life, thus the toast l’chaim (remember that the revival of "Fiddler on the Roof" begins in previews on November 20th at the Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway). Gifts are often given in the amount of $18 or multiples. Therefore, please contribute to West End Synagogue to help it improve its decisionmaking capability, so that it does not make such an egregious error in choosing a groom in the future.

Friday, September 25, 2015
So, we won't have John Boehner to kick around anymore?  And, Jeb Bush told a crowd in South Carolina on Thursday that Republicans could attract more African-Americans with a message of “hope and aspiration,” and not with promises of “free stuff.”  How could anyone think of moving to New Zealand at a time like this? 

Save the date -- October 24th

Friday, September 18, 2015

¡Feliz año nuevo!

Monday, September 14, 2015
The Jewish New Year occupies the next two days.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015
The most interesting news of the past several days was found in a casual reference in the real estate section of the New York Times about the sale of a Greenwich Village townhouse. A certain Mr. Sels was identified as a middle man in the deal, in which Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg may be an unnamed participant. The article says that Mr. Sels "has been involved with real estate transactions with Mr. Zuckerberg and his sister and helped Mr. Zuckerberg refinance the mortgage on his Palo Alto home." Note that Zuckerberg has an estimated worth of over $36 billion.
Can you hear Zuckerberg’s mother? "So, Mr. Smarty Pants, you need to borrow money to buy a house?"

The report of the death of the founder of Subway sandwich shops informed me that it is the world’s largest fast food chain, with more than 20% more outlets than McDonald’s. While I don’t consider McDonald’s the exemplar of casual dining, my own exposure to Subway did not lead me to believe that it might be as dominant as it is. I ate Subway tuna sandwiches about twice a month for a couple of years during the mid-aughts, while I was working at the little forgotten courthouse at the corner of Thomas Street and West Broadway in Tribeca.

As I explained when I began my lunchtime exploration of Chinese restaurants in 2010, the Tribeca neighborhood had several fine restaurants, such as Bouley and Nobu. However, these were not your everyday, sit-down-with-your-crossword-puzzles-at-lunch restaurants. That sort were much harder to find in the vicinity. A decent pizzeria and Le Zinc, a friendly café, both on Duane Street, between West Broadway and Church Street, closed during my tenure. Zucker’s Bagels and Smoked Fish, 146 Chambers Street, a very good example of its genre, only opened shortly before I moved across town; Pakistan Tea House, 176 Church Street, the best of several nearby Pakistani/Indian/Bengali restaurants, was very small and usually very crowded, which made it hard to linger. So, every couple of weeks, I went to the Subway sandwich shop on Chambers Street, just west of West Broadway. I never considered eating anything there except tuna fish. I still marvel at the advertising photographs of fat sandwiches, bursting with meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, guacamole, pickles and various dressings, bearing absolutely no resemblance to the 95% bread concoctions actually served.

In my defense, the climate control in the store always operated successfully, and the clusters of students from Manhattan Community College and Stuyvesant High School, both two blocks away, always made room for me and my newspaper. For better or worse, the Subway management team never consulted me on their growth strategy or their menu.  While there are at least two Subway sandwich shops in Chinatown, I have never entered either since I moved across town to 60 Centre Street.  Placing me here every weekday was an opportunity to discover Heaven on Earth. 

I moved from Malaysia to Thailand on my weekly visit to Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street, when I ordered Thai mango salad with grilled shrimp ($6.25 plus $3 for the shrimp). I enjoyed the dish, composed of threads of mango, purple onions, chives and fresh chili, in a strong lime sauce. The four smallish shrimp were over-priced, but took an edge off the highly-spiced dish. I think that this item would be best enjoyed with a glass of beer, waiting for your main course. I received a cast iron pot of tea without any fuss, and business was good, a few more non-Chinese/Malays.

Thursday, September 17, 2015
By coincidence, Tomas Gonzalez, my grandnephew, has just left Buenos Aires, Argentina to begin college at University of California, Santa Cruz, and a web site has placed that location at the top of the list of best college towns.

It’s an interesting list, consisting entirely of places that I have never been expelled from.

Last night’s Republican candidates’ debate was more interesting as theater than politics, as these events tend to be, regardless of party affiliation. Sincere-sounding promises of "strength," "leadership," "firmness," "courage" and "boldness" abounded, without any suggestion of real policies. One question did, however, focus on specifics; in fact, it required the candidates to name names. Who would you put on the new $10 bill? Here was a platinum-plated invitation to pander, and I’m not surprised that Mom, Wife and Daughter were offered as responses. However, I was surprised by the mention of Rosa Parks by several speakers who have usually been indifferent to African-American civil rights.

But, the most surprising and weirdest answer came from Jeb! (the man who traded his last name for a punctuation mark): Margaret Thatcher. First of all, few Americans under 60 can identify Margaret Thatcher, and even many of us over 60 need the help of Meryl Streep’s portrayal in "The Iron Lady" to place her in time and space. Second, most Americans in the fly-over states are beset by the presence of foreigners, in fact or in myth, on the sacred ground of the U S of A. Even a white, Christian, English-speaking foreigner may be too – how do you say? – foreign a figure to put on our currency.

Michael Ratner joined me at Sam’s Spring Roll, 23 Essex Street, five doors from the birthplace of Mother Ruth Gotthelf in 1909. The joint was reviewed in the New York Times on Wednesday and we appeared one day later. Waiting for Michael, I met Samantha Chu, the young owner, who grew up in Chinatown. Her sister married a Vietnamese man and that exposed her to another cuisine after her grandmother had taught her Chinese cooking.

The place is tiny, no more than 8 feet wide and 20 feet long. Seating is available on stools at two high two-tops, a narrow four-foot counter, a narrow five-foot counter and a bar where orders are placed and bills paid. One wall is exposed brick, probably already old when my mother lived down the block. Opposite is a wall painted battleship gray, with a few nondescript things attached.

The menu is very limited. There are four spring rolls, each about 4 inches long and one inch in diameter: cumin chicken, bulgogi (Korean beef), samosa (vegetarian), and pork leek. One roll is $2, three for $5. The look and feel of the contents distinguished them more than the flavors. Four sauces are offered, although there are no natural combinations with the rolls: creamy verde, creamy chimichurri, crack (spicy Thai), and ginger & scallion. They were all green, all tasty, two more spicy (chimichurri and crack), and combined well with any of the rolls. We each had each roll plus one more chicken and beef. Additionally, Sam serves a rice bowl ($8) – a spring roll, egg, pickles, sauce and rice – and a salad bowl ($9) – spring roll, mixed greens, egg and miso sesame dressing. Finally, for the millennials, waffle fries, which were outsourced, and thus skippable.

Friday, September 18, 2015
I am trying to close Sesame Street and pave it over.  My last stop, I hope, was at Shanghai HePing Restaurant, 104 Mott Street, a bright, airy place (May 21, 2013, April 15 2012).  It served Cold Noodles with Peanut Sauce ($4.95), and did it well.

The medium-sized portion was covered with slivers of cucumber, chive ringlets and sesame seeds.  There was plenty of sauce, thick enough not to drip.  It rated an A+, but barely missed perfection in that the sauce lacked that subtle salty edge found in peanut butter.

I am ending this important week at CitiField, for the first game of the Mets-Yankees weekend series.  I am going with Jerry S., fellow congregant and rabid Yankees fan, in the ecumenical spirit of the High Holy Days.  While I am prepared to concede that his Hebrew is better than mine, I am convinced that my baseball is better than his. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Don & Dick - Happy Warriors

Monday, September 7, 2015
No labor on Labor Day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Since Labor Day is the symbolic end of summer, I planned to be finished with my exploration of Sesame Street by now. However, this week’s weather forecast is decidedly summer-like, hot and humid, so I will continue consuming and comparing cold sesame noodles for the next few days, at least. That means I finally put Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, the Holy Temple of Chinatown, to the test. Well, a partial test, because, as I have so often written, Wo Hop represents the best in classic Chinatown cuisine, raising the ordinary to the heights of gustatory pleasure. Not everything they serve is perfect. I’ve noted that their beef is best prepared when sliced thin, beef chow fun or beef with scallions, for instance, while their beef in chunks, Szechuan orange flavored beef, for example, is often tough and stringy. Still, overall, Wo Hop is the place for won ton soup, fried won tons, spare ribs, chow fun (any flavor), fried rice (any flavor), egg foo young (any flavor), honey crispy chicken, beef with scallions, shrimp in lobster sauce and always starting with their incomparable crispy noodles dipped in the very hot mustard and the gooey duck sauce.

The cold sesame noodles ($5.25) were so pretty, as you can see for yourself.

The portion was very large, as is true generally at Wo Hop. There were sesame seeds and chives generously sprinkled on top. Unfortunately, the taste was bland (although hot mustard and soy sauce helped a lot, as it almost always does). That wonderful peanut butter flavor was missing, however, leaving us with a large plate of wet noodles. The sauce had the virtue of sticking to the noodles, though, posing no threat to shirt or tie. B+ for size and appearance.

Tom Adcock sends along this wise commentary on Stephen Colbert (you remembered to program your DVR?).

Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Kim Davis, Kim Kardashian, Kim Il Sung. Do you think that they might go on the road together?

For those of us of a certain age, thinking about how to greet the inevitable, the following is instructive.

The Boyz Club met at Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, the dim sum palace the size of a football field. Eight of us ate and ate. I tried to keep count of the number of items that we consumed, but the cart ladies surrounded us and kept pushing plates forward faster than I could tally. In turn, the plates were vacuumed clean at an equally fast pace. Fortunately, supply and demand were unaffected by China’s economic woes.

Headline: "Migrant Tide Bringing Out Europe’s Best and Worst"
Vying for the worst has been Hungary with the Prime Minister and a Roman Catholic bishop rejecting Pope Francis’s call for compassion and charity towards refugees. Contrast this response with what the Central Intelligence Agency reported about the Hungarian Revolution of October 1956; "in the months following, it is estimated that 188,000 Hungarians found refuge in Austria and 18,000 in Yugoslavia. As of 1 September 1957, approximately 35,000 of these refugees had accepted asylum in the US."

Thursday, September 10, 2015
Who has been starting the rumor that Donald Trump applied for a Purple Heart for the attack of acne that he experienced at New York Military Academy, which served as his functional equivalent to service in the US armed forces.

Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street, got my weekly visit today. By now, the hostess recognized me and I got tea in a nice cast iron pot, without any sign of a tea bag. Continuing my way through the menu, I ordered Soy Sauce Chicken w. Fried Egg Stone Rice ($8.75), described as slow-braised soy sauce chicken, mushroom, and Chinese sausage. I also found slivers of ginger in the sauce. These ingredients sit on rice and are baked in a stone bowl longer than it takes the ordinary dish to be prepared. Once arrived, the food stays hot (very hot) for as long as it takes to eat it. I was still blowing on every forkful more than ten minutes after I started eating. The portion wasn’t very big, but the care needed to handle each bite without hurting myself made it seem that much more food was in front of me. The pieces of chicken were odds and ends, with skin and bones included. Ultimately, the (Malaysian) authenticity of the dish was more memorable than the flavor.

The restaurant was very busy, an encouraging sign. I asked the hostess about the patrons, all Asian appearing to me. She confirmed that they all seemed to be, like her, Malaysian of Chinese lineage. I promised to return next week.

Dick "Mr. Wrong" Cheney has published a book harshly critical of Barack Obama’s foreign policy just in case you were sentimental for the years 2001-2009.

There will always be an England:
"Woman discovers ‘boyfriend’ of two years is woman when she removes blindfold during sex"

By the way, while Dick Cheney did not expose himself to the risks that Donald Trump did at New York Military Academy, Cheney had strong feelings about the American involvement in Vietnam. "Was it a noble cause? Yes, indeed, I think it was." Yet, "I had other priorities in the ‘60s than military service." And, in order to pursue those possibly-nobler-than-Vietnam priorities, Cheney sought and received five deferments from the draft during the Vietnam War, until he aged out. Fight on, Dick!

Friday, September 11, 2015
What better way to end the old year than with a new joint.  Formosa Café, 34 Eldridge Street, is primarily a beverage shop serving some snacks.  Its featured food item is a rice ball, actually shaped like a hot dog bun, filled with teriyaki beef or chicken.  I had instead Taiwanese popcorn chicken ($4) and shrimp shu mai ($3.25),  The chicken would have been very good if it were not very salty.  The shrimp shu mai resembled neither shrimp nor shu mai (normally a steamed wrapper around chopped shrimp and pork).  It looked and tasted like a scallop cylinder, lightly coated with rice flour and deep fried.  I bought a mango slush ($3.25) to off set the saltiness of the chicken.  

Every flat surface except the counter is painted matte black and the furniture is mostly black.  Yet, the full height and width front window brought in a lot of light.  There are two six-foot long high tables in the center of the room, with six stools each.  Along the opposite walls are banquettes covered with steel-gray, reptile-print leatherette.  Most of the customers were Chinese youth, dallying before going home to algebra. 

With that, we bid 5775 farewell.  If you choose to pray next week, consider requesting enlightenment for the Domestic Enemies of Sanity, the Stanley Cup for the Rangers and strength for those struggling to spread peace and justice.  We'll save the hard stuff for later.

Friday, September 4, 2015

BM, B&H and BS

Monday, August 31, 2015
William Franklin Harrison, the 48th President of the United States, came by yesterday to help me organize the bookshelves in our music room/den/guest room/study/computer room/library. This became necessary last August when the faulty installation of a new refrigerator caused a flood in our kitchen, dining room and part of our living room. Replacement of the warped hardwood floors finally took place in January. With the attendant moving of furniture and replacement of baseboards, it was practical to have the whole apartment painted then as well. That required the unloading of the wall of bookshelves in the music room/den/guest room/study/computer room/library. While I had the assistance in the restorative process of Simon Gurvets, a likely recipient of a Nobel Prize at or about the time that William Franklin Harrison gets to the White House, Simon and I simply aimed to fill up the shelves, clearing the newly-laid floors of books, bric-a-brac and photographs. That resulted in a completely random array of possessions that extended search and retrieval times to a length comparable to being on hold for Verizon.   

Which brings me to my Bar Mitzvah. Among the items that turned up as we were restocking the shelves was the photographic album of my Bar Mitzvah, held on a Saturday night in March, long, long ago at the Twin Cantors catering hall on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. (I thought that there would be no trace of that ancient establishment, but was I wrong. From the September 2011 newsletter of the Creative Arts Temple, Los Angeles, "Any Jew from New York has heard of the famous Twin Cantors, Maurice and Bernard Epstein. They opened a catering hall on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn and performed marriages and Bar Mitzvahs together." Google has at least a dozen references, and an advertisement for the joint can be found at

William Franklin Harrison was more surprised that there was no video than at the small collection of black and white photographs that recorded the event. I showed him the one photograph that best illustrated to me the biggest difference between then and now. If you are an urban American of any religious or irreligious persuasion, you have probably attended a Bar or Bat (for girls) Mitzvah. Whether at a hotel, a catering hall, a country club or the party center of a synagogue, they are too often big, lavish, gaudy and loud. They are big, lavish and gaudy as a sop to family and friends. They are loud because 40 or 50 emerging adolescents are present and seemingly can only be entertained by loud music and stupid (loud) games. However, the photograph that I showed William Franklin Harrison captured most of the 4 (male) friends, 4 male cousins and 2 female cousins who constituted the entire youthful delegation to my Bar Mitzvah, ranging in age from 10 to 16. They sat with me at the head table, but were served the same glutinous food as the adults, and were not catered to in any other fashion. Apologies to my cousin Michael Goldenberg, who I have omitted from the head count because he was just three years old at the time, and sat with his parents.

Sesame Street led me to Shanghai Café Deluxe, 100 Mott Street (May 8, 2015, February 19, 2014, February 4, 2014, March 26, 2013), which serves a superb scallion pancake. The cold sesame noodles ($5.95) were no more than ordinary, by comparison. I give them a B. The portion was very large, topped by sesame seeds, chives, bean sprouts and a bit of lettuce. There was ample sauce, but it was too thin, both in consistency, posing a threat to clothing, and in taste, lacking any distinct peanutty flavor. Food here is otherwise first rate.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015
I met Tom Adcock, distinguished novelist and journalist, for breakfast at the newly-reopened B&H Dairy, 127 Second Avenue. Without hesitation, we both ordered the French toast, made with challah baked on the premises. Three thick slices for $8, with a big glob of butter and (maple?) syrup. A best buy. 

My delight at visiting the restored B&H (the building was compromised by a gas explosion two doors down) was tempered by confronting a loss of another familiar New York icon, the big, black, cube on edge in the middle of Cooper Square. It has sat there for over 45 years, and, although weighing about 1,800 pounds, it could swivel slowly when pushed. It was removed in October 2014 (shows how far removed I am in time and space from the East Village).

This article predates its removal.
The cube is supposed to be returned, but, after seeing the dramatic building boom at the intersection of St. Mark’s Place, Lafayette Street, East 8th Street, Astor Place and the Bowery, I think that every available square inch is destined for condomaximization.
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
My eyesight has been poor since even before my Bar Mitzvah, but I am certain that I saw something unusual twice in the last ten days on the subway that defies explanation. Each time, I saw a young woman with thin (1/8 inch wide) stripes painted around her arm. In one instance, they circled her wrist, in the other, her bicep. One stripe was silver, the other gold; they were close together, maybe 1/4 inch apart. An inquiry on Google yields nothing pertinent. Any ideas?

Just in case you did not read Tom Friedman today: "But if you think Iran is the only source of trouble in the Middle East, you must have slept through 9/11, when 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Nothing has been more corrosive to the stability and modernization of the Arab world, and the Muslim world at large, than the billions and billions of dollars the Saudis have invested since the 1970s into wiping out the pluralism of Islam — the Sufi, moderate Sunni and Shiite versions — and imposing in its place the puritanical, anti-modern, anti-women, anti-Western, anti-pluralistic Wahhabi Salafist brand of Islam promoted by the Saudi religious establishment."

I made my weekly visit to Wok Wok Southeast Asian Cuisine, 11 Mott Street, and again came away pleased. When I walked in, near 1 PM, the joint was just about empty, one table occupied. By the time I left, it was almost full. All the other customers appeared to be Asian (of Asian descent), whether Malaysian or Chinese, I don't know. Didn't ask, couldn't tell. Even though I ordered when almost no one else was around, and made clear that I wanted real Chinese tea, yet again I was given a cup of hot water and a tea bag. The waitress, who seemed to be perfectly bi-lingual, insisted that it was Chinese tea, and fruitlessly showed me the tag on the tea bag.

That minor obstacle overcome, I ordered K.L. Hokkian Char Mee ($7.75), described as "Famous stir-fry Hokkian thick noodles in rich aromatic dark soy sauce with pork, shrimp, squid and choy sum (a leafy green vegetable)." I assume that K.L. stands for Kuala Lumpur, and Hokkian is a synonym for Fujian, which is, of course, a province in China, far removed from Kuala Lumpur. Go figure. In any case, it was delicious. I put on a dab or two of the hot, red  sauce served on the side, but there was plenty of flavor without it. The portion was large, the noodles thick and the other ingredients in ample supply. So far, I have been wandering through Wok Wok’s menu without duplication, but this is another of their dishes that is worth having again and again.
Thursday, September 3, 2015
On my subway ride home, I saw my third example of the trend/fad/infection that produces gilt stripes on the limbs of young women. This version differed from the other two, which had parallel lines of gold and silver. As you can see, there was a silver leafy pattern only on the left bicep. Maybe this is a limited tribute to the painted naked ladies who have been populating Times Square lately. 

Friday, September 4, 2015
I knew Richie Berman when he was an undergraduate at Cornell University, but we have had no contact since then. Because or in spite of that, I think Southern District Judge Richard Berman’s decision lifting Tom Brady’s suspension from the National Football League is wrong headed. Judge Berman found it "fundamentally unfair" that Brady was not given notice that his conduct in regard to the preparation and mishandling of footballs and his destruction of his cell phone, which may have contained informative text messages, might lead to a four-game suspension. 

I find a crude analogy in another story on the sports pages (crude is often an appropriate adjective for my thinking). Curt Shilling, one of the best pitchers in baseball, retired and went to work as a commentator for ESPN. The other day, Shilling sent a Tweet comparing Muslims to Nazi-era Germans, illustrated with a picture of Adolf Hitler. ESPN quickly suspended him, whether out of concern for its Jewish, Muslim or Nazi viewers. While the matter has not, and may not, turn into a court case, I’d like to imagine Shilling’s defense, waving his contract. "You didn’t say Hitler. Where does it say Hitler?"