Friday, October 23, 2015

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Monday, October 19, 2015
Usually, I am satisfied thinking that 2 or 3 people not in my will are reading these ruminations.  However, I might be spoiled by a message from Trip Advisor, the web site that aggregates travelers' opinions, which I have made frequent use of in my own travels.  For the first time,  after my trip to Barcelona, I sent in some reviews because I was collecting my thoughts to take up some space here anyway.  Well, Trip Advisor told me that, as of yesterday, 596 people read my restaurant review.  That’s pretty good, a bit intoxicating even.  I might want to do this more often.

72nd Street Downtown Subway Platform *** - This example of early New York City underground architecture is frequently busy during the day, attracting both locals and visitors to the neighborhood.  It is noisy and sometimes smelly, but those are reasons to start conversations with good-looking strangers.  Foreign languages may be in use, it is open 24 hours a days and the price of admission is low.

Thanks to Herb Dooskin for finding this nugget in James Patterson's novel Alert, probably  written by his collaborator, Michael Ledwidge.  In any case, the book deals with the efforts of NYPD detective Michael Bennett and the FBI’s Emily Parker to fight a high tech assault on the city that never sleeps.  Here is the end of chapter 55:
“So close and yet so far,” [Bennett] said, looking at the federal building two blocks away, above the courthouses.  “Hey, after our respective ass-covering sections, how about Chinese for lunch?  Wo Hop.  My treat.”  “Wo Hop?” Emily said.  “How could I turn that down?”

Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Last night, I went to my first Rangers hockey game of the season and it was all good news.  The Rangers beat a strong opponent 4-0 by performing well in all phases of the game.  However, there wasn’t good news outside Madison Square Garden.  When I arrive early in the neighborhood of MSG, I usually go into Jack’s 99 Cent store, 110 West 32nd Street, between Broadway and Seventh Avenue to see what bargains are around.  I left Jack’s last night empty handed and disappointed for three reasons.  First, very little merchandise was being sold for 99 cents, that magic number that has almost become a brand name.  Second, actual prices were no bargain.  Items that I am familiar with were no cheaper than at supermarkets and more expensive than at cut-rate competitors.  Finally, the source of my greatest disappointment was the absence of familiar items of rare quality, notably Barton’s real dark chocolate-covered graham crackers and pretzels, two to a package for 99 cents.  This amounted to about $6 a pound for the excellent graham crackers; the closest competitor is Asher’s, available at Zabar’s, Fairway, selling for $6.95 for 7.15 ounces or more, about $15 a pound.  The same disproportion applied to chocolate-covered pretzels.  No wonder that my typical purchase of Barton’s was 6 or 8 packages of each.  Please note that many other versions of graham crackers and pretzels are not covered in real chocolate, but some brown-colored vegetable fat cutely labeled “chocolatey” or “ fudgy.”  Read your labels.

I had lunch with Seth G., a director of the camp where West End Synagogue has held its retreat for the last three years.  We took a very little time to fine tune our contract for 2016, and then dug into the food at Wok Wok Southeast Asian Cuisine, 11 Mott Street.  Because I was introducing him to the restaurant, we ordered some things that I have already tried successfully.  So, I will only call deserved attention to the curry beef  rice bowl ($6.95), brisket that has bathed in delicious spices for several years, or so it seemed from the tenderness of the meat.  Unfortunately, I had no demands to make of Seth, because the quality of the food had also softened him up.  Instead, we enjoyed the food and each other’s company as we planned for another weekend in the country next June.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
We have no small children and our young grandchildren are hours away.  Yet, I feel strongly, though inconclusively, about the controversy over PS 199, the elementary school right below our window at home.  A couple of years ago, the very bad idea was floated of tearing down the school, building a high-end, high-rise above it, then reinstalling the school on lower floors.  That plan was abandoned, at least for the present.  

By the standard measure of test scores and the anecdotal evidence of our neighbors with children in the school, PS 199 seems to be doing a good job, so good, in fact, that it was recently reported that it “ has the longest waiting list in the city for Kindergarten spots.”  Those children who could not get into PS 199 were first directed to PS 191, nine blocks south.  In New York City, nine blocks might separate two cultures, two nations, two civilizations.  But, you need not even travel that far to step into a different world.  PS 191 sits on the same block as Fordham University’s Law School and its Graduate School of Social Service, one block from Lincoln Center, and half a block from the highly competitive Abraham Joshua Heschel School, a private Jewish school, with annual tuition ranging from $37,700 to $42,000, K to 12.  This year, the New York State Department of Education designated PS 191 as “persistently dangerous,” one of two schools in Manhattan and 27 schools city-wide thus identified.  This resulted from reported incidents of violence with and without weapons, sex offenses, arson and menacing.  Needless to say, prospective and actual PS 199 parents are strongly opposing any connection with PS 191.  Yes, PS 199 has a predominantly white population, and PS 191 has a predominantly minority population.

PS 159 Brooklyn was no more than half a block away for me when I attended first through sixth grade.  Its schoolyard, informally called Delaney Stadium for the dour principal who ruled the school forever, was our destination outside of school hours except when forced away by Hebrew school attendance, dinner or darkness.  It was the quintessential neighborhood elementary school, containing Italian Catholics (some of whom grew up to be the actual Goodfellas immortalized by Martin Scorsese) and Eastern European Jews (some of whom grew up to eat in a lot of Chinese restaurants).  While I attended PS 159, there were only two African American kids, brothers, a couple of years apart.  I recall no other people of color, any color but white.  The school was pacific, thanks in part to Miss Delaney and Mother Ruth Gotthelf, PTA president for a time.

I wish for all New York City schoolchildren the opportunities apparently presented by PS 199 Manhattan, or even the unimaginative but caring atmosphere of PS 159 Brooklyn.  What will it take?  

Thursday, October 22, 2015
Today's New York Law Journal provides an ironic counterpoint to the (probably futile) concerns that I expressed yesterday about public education in New York.  Using public records, the paper listed the ten top spending lobbying clients in New York State, that is groups trying to influence legislation at some level within the state.  Five of the ten, including the top two, are focused on public education.  Four of the five have sappy names, such as, Coalition for Opportunity in Education and Families for Excellent Schools, which tell us nothing of their real agenda.  Only New York State United Teachers makes it clear which side they are on.  

In any case, I wonder whether the spending of $5,006,146 by the Coalition for Opportunity in Education during the first six months of 2015, for example, will improve the lot of the children at PS 191.  A look at their web site seems to indicate otherwise, with its emphasis on an Education Investment Tax Credit plan to aid private and parochial schools.

Friday, October 23, 2015
Just before West End Synagogue honors me at services tomorrow, I learned that another honor has been denied me.  But, first some context.  Recently, Joan Weill, the wife of the Wall Street billionaire Sanford I. Weill, proposed a $20 million gift that would lift the struggling  fortunes of Paul Smith's College in upstate New York, on the condition that it be renamed Joan Weill-Paul Smith's College.  Ms. Weill, a graduate of Brooklyn College, has had her name (with or without her husband's) appended to Paul Smith's College's library, as well as the Alvin Ailey troupe's Center for Dance, the Cornell Medical College, the Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology at Cornell, the recital hall at Carnegie Hall, the building at the University of Michigan housing the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and the concert hall at Sonoma State University, among other edifices.  A judge, however, ruled that the terms of Paul Smith's will (possibly one of the Smith Brothers) precluded modifying the college's name.  So, the Weills withdrew the offer of $20 million yesterday.

I never attempted to keep up with the Weills and, in light of my limited means, I kept my focus on one institution, my alma mater. Therefore, I am disappointed to announce that the proposal to rename the City College of New York to AG-CCNY has been rejected.  In spite of extensive negotiations, no satisfactory arrangement could be achieved, including our last proposal to install a fittingly-named Chinese restaurant in the student union.

1 comment:

  1. Since the CCNY gambit failed, you purchased Novartis as a consolation prize, and that's why they're Novartis AG?