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 http://fultonhistory.com/Newspapers%2021/Rockaway%20Beach%20NY%20%20Wave%20Of%20Long%20Island/Rockaway%20Beach%20NY%20%20Wave%20Of%20Long%20Island%20%201960/Rockaway%20Beach%20NY%20%20Wave%20Of%20Long%20Island%20%201960%20-%200521.pdf)
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. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alamo_(sculpture)
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?"