Saturday, April 16, 2016

New York Values

Monday, April 11, 2016
When someone was once extolling the virtues of the Left Coast to Mark Kolber, they asked him, "What does New York have that we don't?"  He quickly replied "The Statue of Liberty."  My own chauvinistic approach to New York also treasures its abundance of memorable people, places and things.  However, I am happy to concede that New York has until now lacked something for decades -- incessant presidential campaign advertising.  

The last time a Republican presidential candidate won New York's popular vote was 1984.  Since then, the margins for the Democrat have been predictably healthy enough to have both parties avoid New York's expensive media market.  And, according to Crain's New York Business, "For the first time since modern White House primaries debuted in 1972, the state [of New York] is hosting competitive presidential races in both major parties this month."  The happy benefit of this has been the absence of annoying campaign ads, at least in the presidential campaigns.  While we have not been spared the stuff and nonsense of local candidates, I suggest that the exaggerations, idle promises, distortions and fabrications of national campaigns notably weaken our confidence in the state of the union.  

An interesting feature in today's paper highlights another distinction for New York, an especially surprising one -- longevity for its residents.

The article identifies several overall population trends, including the connections between wealth and geography on longevity.  Particularly, the "top 1 percent in income among American men live 15 years longer than the poorest 1 percent; for women, the gap is 10 years," and "[f]or poor Americans, the place they call home can be a matter of life or death."  However, New York City seems to have partly overcome these trends to the benefit of its residents.  Poor New York men live longer than any comparable group in the country, 79.5 years, while poor women (84.0 years) are second only to Miami.  By comparison, poor men in Gary, Indiana have an average lifespan of 74.2 years, and poor women in Las Vegas, Nevada have an average lifespan of 80.0 years, clearly trailing New York. 

The rich still do measurably better here than the poor.  In Manhattan, for instance, a rich person will live about 6 years longer than a poor person, yet "about 1.5 years smaller than the gap for the United States as a whole."   Given the notorious chasm between our haves and have-nots, does envy fuel the local will to live?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016
My neighborhood in Brooklyn was composed of blue collar, pink collar and slightly-soiled white collar families.  Nearly 100% white, we were roughly divided between Eastern European Jews and Italian Americans, with no evident friction.  We lived side by side and sat next to each other in school.  There was no "West Side Story" in our neighborhood, but there were also no ecumenical functions or interfaith services to bring us together.

One tradition that did not emerge from this setting was an early exposure to Italian food.  If our family went out to eat, not often because of economic constraints, we usually headed for Wu Han's, a Chinese restaurant up one flight of stairs on Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville, home to Murder Incorporated slightly more than a decade earlier.  At rarer intervals, we went to Lundy's, the gargantuan sea food emporium in Sheepshead Bay.  
There was an Italian restaurant two blocks from our house and I walked by it weekdays on my way to and from Hebrew school after the regular school day.  I remember the red neon sign in the window, PIZZERIA, an unfamiliar word that I mispronounced for years.  I thought that the first syllable rhymed with fizz.  No one that I knew ever entered this joint. I still have no idea what might have transpired behind its walls.

In any case, I only became familiar with pizza and Italian hero sandwiches in high school, a pattern that I've learned is common to other contemporary Jewish friends and relatives.  I've been doing my best to make up for that initial handicap.  

Therefore, today I went to Parm, 235 Columbus Avenue, the second iteration of a restaurant that started in Little Italy.  It occupies a large space, previously occupied by a deservedly failed pseudo-Jewish delicatessen.  Parm has a bar with 12 stools on the left of the front room, a retail counter on the right and its open kitchen beyond the retail counter.  I'm not sure how much of the decor was retained, but there is a nice old-fashioned feel to the tin ceiling and the mosaic tile floor.  However, the wallpaper seemed to have been borrowed from Ralph Kramden's Brooklyn apartment.

I had a "meatball parm" ($15), as they style it, on a six inch oblong roll, heavily coated with sesame seeds.  The bread was fresh, maybe too soft, just managing to contain the meatballs.  There was only a modest amount of sauce on the sandwich, a positive since it allowed you to hold the sandwich while eating, not having to resort to knife and fork to manage a drippy mess.  On the other hand, the sauce was a bit bland, needing a hit of garlic, oregano and rosemary.  

I also had mixed feelings about the Diet Coke that I ordered.  It came in a full can, cold, with a glass of ice and a lemon wedge . . .  for $3.  Now, there are far worse deals on soda around town, often no more than colored carbonated water.  But, $3 is still a tremendous markup, comparable to the price gouging on wine at too many "nice" restaurants.  Parm has a regular menu which I have not sampled, in addition to sandwiches, with moderate prices.  For instance, linguine vongole (clams) is $18 and chicken limone (half chicken in lemon sauce) is $24.  It seems worthy of future exploration.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016   
[Sigh of relief]  I went to my first Mets game of the season and they won.  

Baseball is the nominal focus of an article that I found provocative.  It was annoying and thus provocative.

It's an awful example of identity politics.  The author compares the percentage of black (African-American) baseball players, 8%, to their share of the population, 11%, and decides that baseball, therefore, "has lost its place in American culture."  He contends that this is based on baseball's disdain for "showboats," and how "baseball’s pool of young talent just doesn’t captivate fans like the stars of football and American sports . . . who, in some way, flouted the white, stoic traditions of American sports."  

The author wrestles with placing Latin baseball players, approximately 30% of major leaguers at present, into his binary racial perspective.  Yeah, there are a lot of them, but "baseball's media have mostly ignored them."  Even the best of them, he claims, "have had to go through humiliating acculturations to make them seem more American."  His only two examples, an unwelcome, though not insulting, nickname for a player who died in 1972, and a Latin superstar who "seemed to go through his entire career [1996-2011] without a single memorable interview or profile."  Really?  Memorable interviews of baseball players?     

To me, the preeminent tradition of American sports is winning and I believe, in my white, stoic fashion, that flashiness sometimes interferes with that goal.  That happened at the last Super Bowl, where the gifted, young quarterback seemed to give more thought to the outfits he wore off the field than his performance on the field.  In the author's eyes, the athlete might have been more culturally relevant than his grizzled, old opponent, but the young man went home a loser.  Yes, Cam Newton is black and Peyton Manning, the victor, white.  However, I am not ready to automatically award style points to any athlete solely on the basis of skin color.  I leave that to the author and other racists.

Thursday, April 14, 2016
Try and remember that "regular walking, cycling, swimming, dancing and even gardening may substantially reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s."  

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps that so many New York City dwellers regularly engage in at least the walking activity mentioned in your last sentence helps to explain their longevity. I can't imagine that there is much walking in either LasVegas or Gary,Indiana.