Friday, June 10, 2016


Monday, June 6, 2106
Whether we use conventional prisons or luxury penthouses to keep our villains off the streets, danger still lurks from a seemingly innocent source.

This warning posted on a construction site on lower Broadway comes from the irrepressible Jeff Boss who claims that the US government engineered the 9/11 tragedy.   Ironically, Jeff asserts that the NSA masterminded the vastly complex World Trade Center catastrophe, hiding its complicity for 15 years, even while failing to whack him, as he insists it is intent on doing. 

One of our presidential candidates indulges in this sort of high/low competence paradoxical reasoning, which was also prominent during the Vietnam War, when many leftwingers shared C. Wright Mills's view of the omnipotence of The Power Elite, while the best and the brightest were being outwitted by the pajama-clad Communist peasant army.

Yesterday, I experienced the dark underside of living in Manhattan when I was returning a car borrowed from a friend.  She lives in an area where all street parking is governed either by alternate side rules or short-term payments.  Land is too precious to allow for parking lots, and the buildings almost exclusively date from the late 19th century when underground garages were inconceivable.  Alternate side parking clears one side of a street for typically two hours when street cleaning along the curbs may proceed.   Subsequently, the other side of the street is cleared.  In the West 70s, Monday at 9 AM begins one period and Tuesday at 11 AM the alternate. Being a civilized gent, I aimed to find a Tuesday space to allow my generous friend an extra 26 hours of rest.  

So, at 3:40 PM Sunday, I started east on West 76th Street (even east, a handy mnemonic), then went west on West 75th Street and then east on West 74th Street, and round and round, connecting northbound on Amsterdam Avenue (short-term paid parking) and southbound on Columbus Avenue (short-term paid parking) and northbound and southbound on Central Park West (alternate side parking).  As the afternoon went on, Monday spaces started to open up, but I rolled right past them in search of a safer haven.  Finally, at 4:45 PM, 65 minutes later, I found a delightful spot on West 76th Street, three spaces in from Central Park West.  

Much to my surprise, I remained in relatively good cheer throughout my period of circumnavigation, aided by Woody's Children, a weekly folk music program on public radio.  It featured American songs of WWII, many written and performed by Communists and fellow travelers, having abandoned their pacifism of 1938-1941 once Uncle Joe came under attack.  One of my favorites is "Stalin Wasn't Stallin'"

Stalin wasn't stallin'
When he told the beast of Berlin
That they'd never rest contented
Till they had driven him from the land

So he called the Yanks and English
And proceeded to extinguish
The fuhrer and his vermin
This is how it all began


June 7, 2016
New York City has a population of about 8 million people. Our election ballots contain races for president, vice president, United States Senate, House of Representatives, governor, lieutenant governor, state attorney general, state comptroller, state assembly, state senate, mayor, city comptroller, public advocate, borough (county) president, county district attorney, city council, and various judgeships.  But, we have never approached the distinction of Draguseni, Romania, a village of 2,500 people where the incumbent mayor, Vasile Cepoi, had to face four challengers, two of whom also named Vasile Cepoi.

I simply don't recall anything approaching that synchronicity here in the Holy Land.  While I  wouldn't be surprised to see a multiplicity of Larry Cohens or Daniel Lees or Michael DiGiovannis or Jose Rodriguezs competing on a local ballot, it hasn't happened here yet.  A search of the Internet ( and fails to uncover even one Vasile Cepoi in the entire United States of America.  Considering that the latest census shows that about 92% of the Romanian population is Christian, almost all Eastern Orthodox, it would probably safe to offer at least one Vasile Cepoi political asylum.  

There have been shows that have opened and closed on Broadway in one day, but today I encountered a different short term enterprise on the street of dreams.  Northbound M5, M7 and M104 buses stop on Broadway at 69th Street, a short spear throw from the Palazzo di Gotthelf.  Sitting right there is Albertina's Fine Foods, 2020 Broadway, open since March.  Albertina's was an amalgam of grocery store, salad bar, and sandwich shop, that replaced a semi-hip shoe store (that means it never carried my size) after a thorough renovation.  Poof, Albertina's was closed I saw as I got off the M7.  Of course, it was never destined to thrive on my patronage, averse to its faux gourmet trappings, and loyal to the Holy Trinity of Fairway, Trader Joe's and Zabar's arrayed along Broadway from 72nd Street to 81st Street.  In fact, I looked inside Albertina's only once briefly without making a purchase.  The markup on cookies and ice cream was outrageous.  I wonder what venture will now risk the challenge of outrageous rents, vigorous competition and so-hard-to-please Upper West Side residents.  I should note that there is no Chinese restaurant closer to my happy home than that location. 
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
I was an active lawyer for about 14 years.  In fact, tomorrow night is my law school's 15th reunion, which I will address later.  True to my sometimes exaggerated search for independence and the lack of a thought-out plan for moving up the ladder of professional success, I never joined any bar association.  Today, I am particularly proud to having avoided membership in the American Bar Association, because it "decided not to publish a book by the human rights lawyer Teng Biao because of concerns about upsetting the Chinese government and putting at risk its Beijing office, which aims to build up the legal system in China," according to the New York Times.  

Of course, the ABA, in a letter to Senator Marco Rubio, boldly refuted this interpretation of its behavior.  "The decision not to proceed with publication of the book was a business decision made by the ABA Publishing Services Group after an assessment of projected book sales, including advice from the ABA’s retail distribution partner.”  Besides applying the standards of the souk to a critical human rights issue, the ABA also threw one of its staff under the rickshaw in order to distance themselves from any appearance of being concerned about anything except adding dues-paying members in China.  "An ABA employee’s initial communication to Mr. Teng of an offer to publish his book and that employee’s subsequent communication regarding the reasons for withdrawing
that offer were misguided as well as erroneous."  
Maybe I should join the ABA, just so I can quit.

Thursday, June 9, 2016
Even though I rely upon probabilities far more than possibilities, I was worried when I heard that there had been a murderous attack in a public area of Tel Aviv.  Our kids and grandkids are visiting there and have regularly reported that they are seeing and doing as much as possible, day and night.  However, it was already after midnight in Israel when we got the news and a telephone call was likely to disturb sleeping parents and children, who might not even have been aware of the terrible events.  So, we were patient until 7 A.M. here, when they answered our telephone call while sitting on the beach of the Mediterranean.  Of course, not all families received such reassurance.

Stanley Feingold is in town and, in addition to meeting with him and another two dozen plus CCNY graduates yesterday, I had lunch at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 209 West 38th Street, with him today in a small group.  While the Hebrew term mitzvah literally means commandment, it is widely used to identify an act of human kindness.  So, it was definitely a mitzvah to invite Stanley and his lovely wife Fumiko to a Kosher delicatessen, since they have been moving about Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon and Savannah, Georgia, spending time with their dispersed family, eating whatever.  Had we met for breakfast, Ess-A-Bagel, 831 Third Avenue, would have been our likely destination.  I have lived outside the New York Bagel Zone and I know.

Thanks to Barbara F. for sending me this marvelous recording which is ultimately more important and memorable in respect to the law than the recent conduct of the ABA.  Please listen to the moving story.

Friday, June 10, 2016
Today is the 15th anniversary of my graduation from Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School and the reunion was held last night, combining my class with others at five year intervals.  Cardozo is a relatively new school, founded in 1976, so there aren't any real old timers, that is if you ignore me.  I was the oldest student in the class of 2001, and probably still its only grandfather.  

The event was held in the Harmonie Club, founded in 1852 by rich German Jews denied admission to the city's fancy schmancy private clubs.  It now occupies a very handsome building designed for it by Stanford White early in the 20th century.  In all, it's an example of living well is the best revenge.  

I wasn't enthusiastic about the reunion, although I sat on the organizing committee, because I did not expect to recapture the joy that I felt as a very old law student.  In fact, barely 10 members of my class of 300 showed up and I could not even put names to the five faces that seemed familiar.  I had a chance to speak to two professors whom I had cared for and who gave the impression of caring for me.

I actually had a happy reunion, but not with members of the Cardozo class of 2001.  As I walked into the lobby of the club, I immediately recognized the friendly face of Abe Foxman, CCNY '62 classmate, who held the very challenging position of national director of the Anti-Defamation League, arguably the most influential Jewish lay organization in the United States, for 28 years.  

Abe's personal story is fascinating.  He was born in a part of the Soviet Union just taken from Poland in time to be captured by the Nazis.  His parents gave him to his Catholic nanny for safekeeping when they were forced into a ghetto.  Abe was baptized and raised as a Catholic until he was reunited with his parents (not without a struggle) at the end of the war.  They survived, although many family members were exterminated.  

Abe has been in the middle of many of the difficult human rights and geopolitical issues of our times, and, while I sometimes differed with his stance, I respect that he was not a captive of mere tribalism.

If you ignored my advice and skipped the audio clip above, I'll give you another   chance to do the right thing.

1 comment:

  1. You were right about listening to the recording. Thank you.

    (Also right, probably, about the ABA.)