Saturday, March 26, 2016


Monday, March 21, 2016
A letter to the New York Times this weekend explains the writer's (and much of the public's) support of the presidential campaign of Donald Trump because of his exposure of "the primary tool that has allowed liberalism and secularism to control the debate for decades: political correctness."  I won't try to explore the causal connection asserted by the writer, but, rather, I challenge his understanding of the phrase itself, and I extend the challenge to the candidate and others who seem to have uncovered an infectious intellectual disease.

I won't rattle off a bunch of definitions, but, as you  may confirm, here is a representative one: "the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people."

In other words, it is not nice to call people niggers, kikes, spics, wops, micks, wetbacks, towel heads, retards, fags, bitches, bimbos, sluts, gimps, gooks, or chinks, at least where you might be overheard.  Within Mr. Trump's lifetime and my own, such language was commonplace in conversation, usually in settings where the referenced group or person was absent or vastly outnumbered.  While most of us learned at an early age the rhyme about sticks and stones, few of us would volunteer to be exposed to gratuitously offensive name calling.  Of course, a healthy, straight, white American male of Northern European origin has probably never been addressed in such a fashion and may be puzzled by the reactions of the rest of us.
I just can't find the reason to regret the absence of insulting language from public, if not private, discourse.  Does American greatness require some of us to marginalize and degrade others?

I find the legal issues surrounding the Hulk Hogan invasion of privacy action challenging.  What privacy is left to someone who has fashioned himself into a cartoon?  Closer to home, I feel particularly challenged by a quote about the case in today's paper.  "'Now that "everyone" has a "sex tape" — and everyone is at risk of having their sex tape published online,' the publication of celebrity sex tapes is less justified in the eyes of readers, said Max Read, a former editor of Gawker."  Guess who doesn't have a sex tape?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016
When I was in England 2 months ago, I was not murdered, kidnapped, beaten, blackmailed, robbed or roughed up, nor did I act feloniously in any regard.  Therefore, I had no contact with any British police force, nor have I had on any previous visit.  However, if I am watching television and it's not a sporting event, it is likely that I am watching a British crime show, appearing on public television, BBC America or Netflix.  Only early "Law & Order" reruns, starring the late Jerry Ohrbach, appeal to me as much.  What I find particularly interesting, even though I suspect that it is unrealistic, is the preponderance of female detectives employed, to wit:
"The Fall"
"Happy Valley"
"Prime Suspect"
"Scott & Bailey"
"Above Suspicion"
"New Tricks"

Is this one area where stodgy British institutions have outpaced us?  Or, are they simply more politically correct?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016
The DT campaign for the Republican presidential nomination received a huge boost as Jeb! announced that he will be touring the country campaigning for Ted Cruz.

Thursday, March 24, 2016
In my six years eating lunch in Chinatown daily, I encountered every Asian cuisine with minor exceptions.   There are no Lao, Singaporean, or Cambodian restaurants in Chinatown.  The one joint in the area that claims to be Indonesian, along with Malaysian, shows little evidence of it on its menu.  While one Singaporean restaurant lasted a short time in Curry Hill, I never heard of a Lao place anywhere in Manhattan.  

The New York Times had a mixed review of a new Cambodian restaurant yesterday.

This is a regular restaurant, tables, waiters and the like.  On the other hand, Num Pang Sandwich Shop is a successful small chain of Cambodian restaurants, founded in this century.  I went to 28 East 12th Street, across the street from what had been its original location, until the building was torn down.  It's very small, about 10 feet wide and six feet from the front window to the counter.  Six stools are pressed against an L-shaped ledge; its very busyness is mostly takeout and delivery.

Num Pang offers 11 sandwiches, 5 salads, 3 rice bowls, 3 noodle bowls and 1 soup, all of which sound appetizing.   The sandwiches come on a 7" soft roll, unlike the crunchy baguettes used for a Vietnamese banh mi, with cucumber, pickled carrots, cilantro and chili mayo.  These flavors somewhat hid the innate taste of the ginger barbecue brisket sandwich with pickled red cabbage ($9.75) that I ordered, but the hodgepodge was really good, primarily because the tender meat was in 1" thick chunks.  

Num Pang now has 8 locations, the nearest just over 1 mile away.  I'll be able to try more of its menu without much trouble, which may be the only thing about Cambodia that is untroubled.

On-line, the New York Times poses 13 questions to ask before getting married.  I think that it represents a very interesting test of compatibility, but should probably be applied retroactively with great caution.

Friday, March 25, 2016
Yesterday, a jury in San Diego held for the law school defendant being sued by a graduate who failed to get a job as an attorney after graduation.  She argued that the false employment statistics provided by the school lured her into enrolling and rolling up significant debt, ultimately to no avail.  This was the first time that such a case reached a jury; other actions, including one in New York involving New York Law School, were dismissed before trial.  I recall that, while the inaccuracy of the employment data in all instances was never disputed, judges and now a jury "concluded that law students opted for legal education at their own peril and were sophisticated enough to have known that employment as a lawyer was not guaranteed."

About six months after I graduated law school, it published employment statistics for my class that were patently phony.   I could rattle off the names of more unemployed graduates than the percentages indicated, myself included.  The placement director was marched off the premises a few months later.  

Fortunately, I found work, worked and retired.  Now I have time to run around delivering holiday packages for my synagogue  -- not Easter, Purim, one of those frequent Jewish celebrations of "They tried to kill us; they failed; let's eat."  I had the company of Simon G., one of my favorite college students.  After three hours hitting addresses on the Upper West Side, we had lunch at Richie's Burger Joint, 2665 Broadway (100-101 Streets), carved out of Schatzie Prime Meats, an old-time butcher shop.    

Richie's menu (service by Richie himself) is simple: hamburgers and a few other sandwiches, chicken wings in a variety of flavors, two salads, some side dishes, a few desserts.  I had the Prime Blend [Beef] Ground in House ($11) with cheddar cheese, a dollar extra, and fries ($4), which we shared.  The hamburger weighed about 1/2 pound, was cooked to the barely medium-rare that I requested, and came with fresh onion and tomato slices.  In these days of two digit hamburgers, the food was very good.  

Richie's was recommended by Melanie S. née L.  Her trimness would normally disqualify her as a source of food tips, but I have found her reliable in the past in spite of her ability to avoid the appearance of having ingested real food.  She is also a graduate of Stuyvesant High School, as is Simon, so I'll be true to my school.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Reason To Celebrate

Monday, March 14, 2014
The big weekend started slow, in fact, at first it didn't start.  The car service that I reserved to pick us up at 7:45 A.M. Friday to take us to Newark Airport, claimed at 7:55 to have never heard of me.  Fortunately, the Palazzo di Gotthelf sits athwart several major trade routes and we were able to get a taxicab to the airport, still arriving about one hour early for the posted boarding time.  However, as we were preparing to scurry on board, the airline announced that the foul weather in Northern California was substantially delaying in-bound flights, first 1 1/2 hours and then 2 3/4. So, our scheduled 6:30 P.M. P.S.T. dinner reservation with family and friends, based on a 2 P.M.arrival, became unachievable as we landed shortly after 4:30 P.M., had to pick up a rental car and drive from San Francisco's airport up to the Berkeley hills in a fairly constant downpour.   Fortunately, we reached someone already on the ground who was able to change our reservation, notify our fellow diners and, thereby, restore our frame of mind to a semblance of calm, cool and collected.  

This was not an ordinary vacation trip.  America's Loveliest Nephrologist was getting married at the Claremont Club & Spa, an elegant hotel and resort spread over the hillside not far from Cal-Berkeley, with almost all the guests coming from far afield.  Since a certain wife of mine was also functioning as mother of the bride, my egg-shell-walking exercises were being put to a full test, and, if I say so myself, the cracks that I produced were nearly microscopic.

The nasty weather not only delayed our flight, it caused a relocation of the planned wedding ceremony itself from the large open terrace of the Lawrence Hall of Science, which has an unobstructed view of the Bay and downtown San Francisco on the other side.  However, the bride and groom acted decisively earlier in the week, when the weather forecast bode ill (proving entirely accurate), and moved us indoors to the Claremont, where the reception was to be held in any case.  As disruptive as this was, the need to move people, places and things on short notice, tempers remained in check and crockery remained unhurled, at least as much as I could tell.

All else went superbly; I walked down the aisle and remained upright throughout the ceremony.  The bride was beautiful, the groom handsome.  My roommate was thrilled and delighted.  The two families, somewhat disparate in background, blended almost seamlessly.  Could you ask for anything more?

Most of the guests left the area today, but my still-young bride and I chose to detox for a couple of days.  One familiar couple also stayed over, so we four assumed conventional tourists roles and headed to Fisherman's Wharf for dinner at Scoma's, 1965 Al Scoma Way, set apart physically and qualitatively from the other fish restaurants in the area.  I've been going to Scoma's for 40 years, but I was still surprised that, on a Monday night, it was packed.  Accordingly, the food was first rate and the prices somewhat high.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016
It seems that all the wedding guests have now returned home or proceeded to their next stop, but we were undaunted and headed into downtown San Francisco.  First stop, Gump's, 135 Post Street, a luxury retailer, founded in 1861, which may be approached as a museum.  It has beautiful jewelry, women's clothing, decorative items, and home furnishings.  If the rest of capitalism had such good taste, I might reconsider my politics.  Madame purchased a stunning black and gold jacket that you should invite us just to see.

For lunch, we went to E&O Kitchen & Bar, 314 Sutter Street, a large pan-Asian restaurant, not to be confused with anything in Chinatown.  It is deservedly popular and well-reputed.  I had lamb naan ($9), a little light on the lamb, and Tamarind & Hoisin Spare Ribs ($15), four ribs barely holding onto thick chunks of delicious meat.  My date had shiitake mushroom dumplings, which she pronounced excellent.  I did not reach across the table in order to save room for dinner with the recent bride and groom.

We four dined at A16 Rockridge, 5356 College Avenue, Oakland, named for a stretch of the autostrada in Southern Italy.  It is a large restaurant, featuring 40 wines by the glass (this is Northern California, after all), crowded, popular, giving over most of its menu to pizza, cooked in a wood-burning oven. Exactly one pasta dish and one version of gnocchi were offered.  I added prosciutto and anchovies to a conventional margherita pizza as a tribute to the world's cardiologists and salt miners.  The food was very good, but service was ragged, even below California casual.  Management comped our drinks and desserts as a result.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016
With the time difference, our flight home occupied the whole afternoon and evening.  Car service, prompted by a call before we got on the plane, was on time and efficient.  

Thursday, March 17, 2016
Learning of a vital element in the background of Merrick B. Garland, our next US Supreme Court justice, I was reminded of Calvin Trillin's response to the question at a book signing: Are you Jewish?  He replied, "Calvin Trillin is a very Jewish name in Kansas City."

Friday, March 18, 2016
I recall unpacking and opening the accumulated mail yesterday.  I don't think that I accomplished anything else.

Europe is preoccupied with a refugee crisis and the US focussed upon DT, allowing Israel a blessed few moments outside the scrutiny of zealous friends and foes.  I consider myself an assertive Zionist, who yet is often disappointed by recent Israeli policies.  My point of view resembles that found in the documentary movie "The Gatekeepers," interviews with six retired leaders of Israel's spy agencies, who, in spite of the nature of their work, are more dovish than the current regime.  Today's obituary of Meir Dagan, another retired director of Mossad, the Israeli secret service, quoted him tellingly: “How did it happen that the country, stronger by far than all the countries in the region, is incapable of carrying out a strategic move that will improve our situation?  The answer is simple: We have a leader who is fighting one campaign only, the campaign for his political survival.”

I also find myself dissenting from Open Table's latest list of best local Chinese restaurants.  While Open Table is a very handy web site for locating and booking restaurants, its reviews are somewhat unreliable, often a little too positive and forgiving.  

None cited are in Chinatown or Flushing; several are of the sort patronized by people otherwise distinguished by the cost of their part-time Manhattan residences.  

I expect to be back on the food trail next week when my biorhythms are restored to normal.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Not Your Mother's Shabbos Dinner

Monday, March 7, 2016
Arthur Dobrin and I lived on Woodhaven Boulevard throughout our high school and college years, but have not been back there together until last night, more than 50 years later.  We met at Taste of Samarkand, 62-16 Woodhaven Boulevard, Rego Park, for dinner, following a good review in the New York Times that impressed Lyn Dobrin.

The restaurant is relatively small, squeezed into a stretch of businesses of diverse origins, including a Chinese restaurant, an Irish pub and a Peruvian restaurant.  It has about a dozen tables, mostly four tops, fully occupied during the evening.  Lacking any personal exposure to Central Asian art, architecture and design, I don't know how authentic the decor is, but it is evocative of something foreign.  Similarly, I admired the colorful outfits worn by the waitresses, but I have to wonder if nylon is a crop native to Uzbekistan.  

The food was very good, Kosher, excluding dairy products, but different from the Eastern European Kosher food that I grew up with.  It listed its meat dishes as "Kebabs," although only some were skewered.  We ordered and swapped a lot of things: lepeshka, a round bread similar to focaccia; a plate shared by babaganush (sic) and humus; samsa, a triangular pasty stuffed with chopped veal and lamb; "Uzbek manti," meat wontons; a green salad that was predominantly red with tomato wedges; a special salad of greens, beef slivers and fried potato threads, unlisted on the printed menu, but mandatory; a very small roasted quail (the only misfire in the meal); lamb kebab, a half dozen cubes of lamb, cooked medium-rare as requested; a small lamb chop; chicken tabaka, pan-fried chicken with garlic and crispy skin.  We did not know that shoestring French fries came with several of the dishes when we ordered a large portion for the table.  

You will have to forgive their cultural appropriation in the serving of San Pellegrino sparkling water. The restaurant is BYOB and Lyn and Arthur brought a bottle of red wine.  And now [Drumroll], the bottom line -- $88.47, before our generous trip.  In other words, it's well worth a trip, less than a mile south of the Woodhaven Boulevard exit of the Long Island Expressway and about 6.5 miles east of Bloomingdale's.  If you need a geopolitical reason to patronize Taste of Samarkand, it is a co-venture of a Uzbek Muslim from Samarkand and a Bukharan Jew from Tajikistan.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Today's paper directed me to an interesting 2012 study on the use of government benefits: "Who Says They Ever Used A Government Social Program?"

While a bit heavy on social science jargon, the paper demonstrates how deluded (willfully?) Americans are about the role of government in their lives.  When asked if they "ever used a government social program," 57% responded No.  This may have left them "under the impression that it is solely through their own efforts or the largesse of market institutions" that they succeed or prosper.  However, when presented with a list of 21 specific programs, only 4% of the survey population actually were free of the taste of the government teat.  

The authors identify the different perception of direct benefits, such as subsidized housing or food stamps, and the "submerged benefits," such as home mortgage interest deduction or 529 college savings plans.  The former benefit the undeserving, while the latter are viewed as rewarding the diligent, prudent, and God-fearing amongst us.  It is these good people who tend to ignore the source of their bounty and disparage those in greater need.  

Wednesday, March 10, 2016
I miss it so much.  Going to work everyday?  No.  Eating in Chinatown everyday.  In my last days working downtown, I kept my eyes on 80 Bayard Street, the longtime home of New Bo Ky Restaurant (April 16, 2010, August 11, 2011), which was undergoing a gut renovation.  Now, ten weeks after my personal renovation, I visited the new Bayard Bo Ky Restaurant.  

All the surfaces seemed new and clean, but the layout stayed very much the same.  On the left of the entry, three men worked in an open kitchen overlooking the street.   Thirty or so tables holding two to six people were arrayed around the room. Even seated at a two top by myself I felt crowded.  There was a bucket of chopsticks, salt and pepper shakers and a sugar dispenser.  Also, four jars of liquids to squeeze on or pour out and two glass containers holding sauces that were respectively hot, hot, hot and hotter than that.  There was simply no room for my crossword puzzle.

The menu was surprisingly limited, containing 54 items, half of which were noodle soups, averaging about $6.  To my regret, noodles were only offered in soup; no plates of chow fun, mei fun, or lo mein.  Another ten dishes were meat over rice, and the remainder a random assortment of pig parts, shrimp and fowl.

I had a House Special Shrimp Roll ($7.75), nine 1" cylinders, in a very thin wrap, almost greaselessly deep-fried.  I also had curry chicken on rice ($6.50), four very small pieces of chicken on the bone, two small pieces of potato and three small pieces of eggplant in a very tasty, buttery curry sauce.  This was served over a large mound of rice which could have been limited to make more room for chicken, as far as I was concerned.  Maybe Bo needed to charge a couple more bucks and make a real meal of it.

Friday, March 11, 2016
The Upper West Side's Power Couple are off to the left coast for some big doings.  Details to follow.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Shaken Not Stirred

Monday, February 29, 2016
You don't have to be Jewish to have grown up with some superstitions in your family, although I think that they are inversely proportional to wealth.  I remember hearing several versions of Eastern European/shtetl superstitions from my mother and her mother, although I was spared the physical ones described in the following article.

Several years ago, I referred to an out-of-print masterpiece on the subject, How to Avoid the Evil Eye by Brenda Z. Rosenbaum, published by St. Martin 's Press in 1985 (August 20, 2010).  I just called the fabled Strand Bookstore, 828 Broadway, which, although proclaiming itself "home to 18 miles of books," has no copies.   Fortunately, Amazon offers copies from several sources, some $6 or less including shipping.

Breakfast is probably my favorite meal as long as it includes eggs.  The New York Times offers a recipe for "the best scrambled eggs" and it really distinguishes scrambled eggs from the fried eggs that we usually pass off as scrambled.

However, the recipe calls for you to stir the simple list of ingredients for 30 minutes.  30 minutes!  I don't think that Lord Grantham would be willing to wait 30 minutes for his scrambled eggs, but maybe he had a kitchen maid stirring from the first crack of dawn so that scrambled eggs would be available on a moment's notice.  In any case, here's another interesting egg recipe that takes less time.

Still in the dairy aisle, let's look at the big cheeses in American society.  The New York Times collected "503 of the most powerful people in American culture, government, education and business."

While the focus is on color, the evident scarcity of black, brown and yellow faces among the movers and shakers, the gender disparity is clear as well.  No doubt, 50 years ago would have produced an undifferentiated mass of white, male faces.  We can choose to celebrate the progress since or to lament the delay in reaching equity.  Of course, those who would make America great again probably miss those days when the fix was in for those who benefitted from the lucky landing of sperm.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Today's quotation of the day in the New York Times is "You step in there, and it’s like you’re not even in the United States anymore."  Is that a description of Seattle's biggest homeless camp or a DT campaign rally?

Grand Sichuan is a chain of 8 local neighborhood Chinese restaurants.  The Chinatown location that I visited on October 18, 2010 was eliminated by a new building. Years earlier, I went to the spot at 229 Ninth Avenue, at 24th Street.  So, I eagerly suggested that Stony Brook Steve join me at lunch at the local branch, 307 Amsterdam Avenue, at 74th Street, because of my warm memories of their pungent tea smoked duck.  

Given the neighborhood, I suspect that there is a very big take-out, delivery business, especially because the seating areas were chopped up and the decor was still in transit.  Steve ordered one of the 49 lunch specials, all $7.95 (although on-line menus show a variety of prices), including choice of soup or soda and white or brown rice.  I chose tea smoked duck ($17.95) with mediocre results.  The flavors were muted and the duck was very fatty, always a risk, but still disappointing.  

Thursday, March 3, 2016
I just caught up with an interesting survey of 18,000 Americans, ages 15 to 29, asked to name their ideal future employers.  

While the survey population is generally diverse, it is skewed towards the respectable, composed of "college-bound high school students, currently-enrolled college students and recent college graduates."  Notably, 3/4 are still in high school and only 1/4 are male, a strange imbalance.  While the ranking of about 150 target companies/entities is probably no more than wishful thinking (Google #1), the asserted decision criteria in seeking the ideal employer are telling.  The leading factors in four categories are: treats employees fairly (72.3%); flexible work hours/schedule (69.6%); gain skills to advance career (89.7%); work/life balance (68.1%).  Good luck, kids.

Friday, March 4, 2016
Obamacare registration has reached 20 million people. Taking away their medical insurance will be a first step in making America great again.