Saturday, January 16, 2016

Travel Is Broadening

Monday, January 11, 2016
America's Favorite Epidemiologist flew away yesterday to the left coast, leaving me to my own devices and a nearly-full refrigerator.  I will struggle to survive.

The New York Times Sunday travel section was devoted to 52 places to go in 2016.

First on the list is Mexico City and already I may be on a different page.  I can understand El Chapo yearning to visit Mexico City, stay in a nice hotel and go to a few museums.  Not me.  Of course, 52 alternatives offers many fine choices.  Bordeaux, France is second and has, among other attractions, a new "Franco-Chinese restaurant Dan."

If you scroll through to Dan's menu, you'll see it's not Grandpa Alan's usual Chinese menu.  But, as we say in old Shanghai, chacun à son goût.  

Even the 51st choice, Sydney, Australia is a place I'd like to see, unlike the 52nd, Beaufort, South Carolina.  I have been to only 9 of the 52 destinations, some in the distant past and one or two on quick business trips, with no time to see anything except a hotel lobby.  Does this give me an agenda for my declining decades?  Probably not, because, as I will demonstrate in a couple of days, my wanderlust bends towards a familiar path.    So, sorry Abu Dhabi, I'll skip your artificial gilded cage and head to the worn sidewalks of London and Paris. 

I am embarrassed.  I own three pairs of jeans a/k/a dungarees or "tangerines" per Esther Malka Goldenberg, my beloved maternal grandmother.  I bought them at least a dozen years ago -- one pair blue-black, one regular blue, and one bleached light blue.  About four years ago, I tripped over a sidewalk stanchion and made a 1" rip in the knee of the regular blue pair.  Consequently, I wore them mainly at home or for short errands outside.  The blue-black pair was reserved for dressier occasions; I'm sorry to have to say that.  The bleached light blue pair then got heavy use and eventually began to show signs of wear and tear.  This weekend, a 6" slit opened up across my right knee.  Now, I would look like one of those people wearing expensive jeans, artfully abused to give the impression that garment and owner have labored mightily without concern for appearances.   I don't know if I can be seen in public like that.

Our stock market has taken a beating as a result of the economic turmoil in China, but does this explain the Wall Street Journal's foray into Jew food?

Not surprisingly, my skepticism about market capitalism is confirmed by the WSJ listing as its third choice a pastrami sandwich with cheddar cheese, such a transgression that I am unwilling to even identify its purveyor.

Nick Lewin, an illustrious fellow graduate of Stuyvesant High School and CCNY, directed me to an article in the UK's Daily Mail about everyone's favorite candidate's phallicism.  

"The term appears to predate Trump's political life as well.  A May 1967 issue of 'The Campus,' a newspaper written by City College of New York students, described . . . a student government election.  As Ellen Turkish, running for Council '68, put it: 'We got schlonged'."  

Of course, I tried to find Ms. Turkish to share the good news with her.  However, the man who answered the phone at the only listing for Ellen Turkish, appropriately in Boca Raton, Florida, a haven for chilled New Yorkers, denied that his Ellen Turkish went to CCNY.  I'm not sure that I believe him, but I understand his reluctance to have his mother/wife/sister/grandmother/aunt/paramour associated with DT evermore.

While not a delicatessen, Red Farm, 2170 Broadway, has pastrami on its menu.  This upscale, innovative Chinese restaurant offers an egg roll filled with Katz's pastrami ($9.50).  Stony Brook Steve and I had lunch there today, ordering from the small plate and dim sum menu.  We had spicy crispy beef ($16), lamb dumplings with miso broth on the side ($14), and five flavor chicken dumplings ($14).  Each order had four dumplings; the large egg roll was cut in off and served with a delicious honey mustard sauce.  The beef was excellent, the portion small.  In sum, first rate food at very, very high prices.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Continuing the pastrami theme, Gary M. and I went to the Ranger game last night, eating at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 209 West 38th Street.  As usual there, I had a pastrami/corned beef combo on rye.  The meat here has been consistently good on several recent visits, and I can recommend it.  I don't know about the typical dinner dishes because no restaurant has ever approached the efforts of my mother or other mature Jewish cooks in my experience.  Have a big sandwich, the complimentary pickles and cole slaw, maybe crinkle-cut French fries, and an appropriate carbonated beverage.

The New York Times today, reflecting on the current woeful state of Brooklyn's professional hockey and basketball teams, brought up some disappointing history.  The Brooklyn Dodgers, my youthful passion (at an age when I had not yet discovered girls and my family could rarely afford to go to restaurants), drew very small crowds while playing their very best baseball.  "From 1950 to 1957, while the Dodgers earned four National League pennants, they never averaged 17,000 fans. In 1955, their [World Series] championship season, the Dodgers averaged crowds of 13,423."  For comparison, the Milwaukee Braves (occupying the space between the Boston Braves and the Atlanta Braves) averaged slightly less than twice as many fans in 1955.  Was it because men wore suits and ties and fedora hats to the ballpark?
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
I landed in London this morning after a comfortable flight on British Airways, and then took the underground to Euston Station, where I had a 3 hour wait for my train to the northwest coast of England.  I was delighted to have the company during my wait of David Brodie, who will be housing me in a few days when I return to London.    

The train took me to Arnside, a village set on an estuary off the Irish Sea.  I don't know what an estuary is, but it looks like a cross between a bay and a river.  There I was greeted by David Mervin, dear friend since graduate school, whose 50th wedding anniversary celebration (which, of course, had a major role for his wife Kathleen McConnell) my young bride and I attended in 2014. Arnside is in the part of England that has had unprecedented flooding recently, and the train passed by many fields, usually covered by crops or grazing sheep, now turned into ponds or lakes.  

Aside from the familiar Davids, I met two young men on my trip so far on interesting paths when ours intersected.  My seat mate on the airplane left Buenos Aires Monday, arrived in New York Tuesday, walked around Manhattan during the day, took the flight to London and was connecting to a flight to Geneva, where he was meeting a friend.  Sitting in Euston Station, I conversed with Gil, an Israeli, who came to England to go to a soccer game in Liverpool.  

Thursday, January 14, 2016
I learned this morning that 4-8-19-27-34 and the Powerball number 10 were the winning combination in the $1.5 billion multi-state lottery.  Alas, this was not what I saw on the ticket that I purchased before leaving, so my return to the US next week will be in no better than the crowded economy section of a scheduled British Air flight.

The Mervins have excellent Wi-Fi (something few of us could have claimed earlier this century), which allowed me to exchange tender messages with America's Favorite Epidemiologist, who returns to New York today.  

Kathleen and I went to an exhibition of Canaletto paintings and drawings in Kendal, a popular tourist town nearby dating back to at least the 8th century, while David was off to a meeting.  He returned proudly bearing the latest issue of Who Do You Think You Are?, a popular British genealogy magazine, which contained an article entitled "I'm related through marriage to an American icon," including a full page color photograph (the spell checker here wants me to add the u) of David and Kathleen.  That's because David's extensive research has disclosed that Kathleen is a direct descendant of a passenger on the Mayflower and is the fifth cousin three times removed of Abraham Lincoln.  

Friday, January 15, 2016
It was hard to leave the home of the relative of an American icon, but I got on a southbound train this afternoon to return to London and continue my vacation under the roof of David and Katherine Walker Brodie, whom I have known only 16 years compared to the 53 years for David and Kathleen McConnell Mervin.  The hospitality shown me in each household defies quantification, however.     

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