Friday, July 29, 2016

Is Michelle A Slovenian Name?

Monday, July 25, 2016What a sense of humor displayed by the editors of the travel section of the New York Times this weekend.  A description of a new hotel in Rome with rooms starting at 400€ (about $441) informs us that the central railway station "is a 20-minute bus ride away."  I imagine that even if I did not arrive in Rome in a private railway car, it is unlikely that I would travel to my 400€ hotel room by bus.

From biblical times, we have enjoyed tales of David against Goliath.  Here's an example of some nerdy scientists uncovering massive fraud by a highly respected multinational company (Naziism aside).

Americans seem to cherish the image of the underdog, the Davids, so much so that we do little to help them, keeping them as underdogs.  We allow the big guys to become bigger and bigger and hobble the monitors, regulators and enforcers of reasonable public policy. 

While the voices of business laud competition and herald its role in our economy, they go to great lengths to shield themselves from it in practice. Corporate sponsors flock to Goliath vs. Goliath at the Super Bowl or the World Series, but seek to emasculate Davids in their own marketplace.

We met Arthur & Lyn Dobrin (my friendship with him in its seventh decade) for dinner at Rajdhani Indian Restaurant, 206-08 Hillside Avenue, Queens Village, somewhat of a compromise location between their home in Nassau County and the Palazzo di Gotthelf, towering over Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan.  It turned out to be a very good choice.
We started with fish pakora (deep-fried little fingers of a white fish, $9.95), vegetable samosa ($3.95) and vegetable samosa (gratis, usually $4). Arthur and I shared chicken kadai (spicy, boneless white meat chicken stir-fried with ginger, coriander, bell pepper and onions, $12.95) and goat biryani (marinated meat, slow-cooked with rice, $13.95).  Les femmes shared palak chana (spinach and spiced chick peas, $11.95).  Naan, raita and mango chutney filled in whatever gaps remained. Rajdhani deserves a visit if you wander far off the beaten path.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016
I skipped Michelle Obama's speech to the Democratic National Convention last night, because I know that I'll hear it again.

Tom Adcock, Stony Brook Steve and I had lunch at Mee Noodle Shop, 795 Ninth Avenue, sister to the joint at the corner of Second Avenue and 49th Street, which I patronized for years when I lived as a wretchedly lonely bachelor.  My first visit to the West Side version was thoroughly satisfying, as we all agreed.  

Mee takes its role as a noodle shop seriously, offering 8 different noodles as the base for dishes: spinach noodle, Mandarin noodle (linguine), lo mein, thin Cantonese noodle, flat Cantonese noodle, hand-pulled noodle, mee fun and chow fun. Without multiplying by eight, the menu lists about 300 dishes, an extraordinary number. Additionally, there are 78 lunch specials, with a choice of soup or egg roll, and white, brown or fried rice.  Even facing this mass of alternatives, almost everything on the menu was familiar or recognizable, seemingly the concatenation of every Cantonese Chinese menu that you have ever seen.

We shared some of our favorite items, cold noodles with sesame sauce ($6.50 large order), pork egg foo young ($10.75 three pieces) and moo shu pork ($10.15 with 2 pancakes, plus $2 for 4 extra pancakes).  This filled up three ganze fressers. Mee may prove to be a credible alternative to Wo Hop, if tragically you can't or won't travel to Chinatown.

I left my two companions and headed to CitiField for an extremely rare event -- a single admission baseball doubleheader. Somewhat to my own surprise, I sat through both games from about 4:10 through 10:40, Mets vs. Cardinals, split decision. My seat was in the shade and high enough up so that a breeze kept me from drowning in perspiration.  Good friend Rob T. scurried from work in time to keep me company for about half the happenings.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Thanks to that eminent historian Bill O'Reilly, author of The Day Pinocchio Died, and other probing page-turners, for qualifying Michelle Obama's racially divisive claim that the White House was built by slave labor.  Bill, fair and balanced, informed us that "Slaves that worked there were well-fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government."  No guilt.

Thursday, July 28, 2016 
Since it was 38 ½ hours since I last attended a Mets game in person, I hied off to CitiField in the company of the sagacious David Goldfarb for an afternoon game.  We had excellent seats, centered, with an unobstructed view of the entire field. However, on this 93 degree day, the sun also had an unobstructed view of my every pale square inch. Therefore, before even the first pitch, we fled into one of the stadium's indoor lounges, comfortably air conditioned, where the obstructed view of the field requires viewing the game on a television set, just like at home.  Given the disappointing outcome, I swear that I won't ever go to another Mets game until Monday night.

Friday, July 29, 2016
Thanks to Professor David McMullen for the following piece, a 1903 film of the already formidable New York City skyline accompanied by Leadbelly, the legendary folksinger, a blending that had to have taken place decades later.  [NB -- May not load on your phone]

I want to give money this year to political campaigns.  I think it is important.  However, the frequent telephone calls soliciting for candidates, the national party, the state party, the congressional campaign committee, and the senatorial campaign committee present me with a dilemma, which none of the cheery people on the other end of line have been able to resolve.  How can I give money and be left alone?  The typical logic of fundraising in almost any cause is to keep going back to the well.  It's the same in sales.  It's cheaper and easier to do business with an existing customer than developing a new one.  

There should be a mechanism to contribute once without opening the floodgates to a continuing barrage of appeals.  Worse, aiding one candidate or charity often exposes you to collateral attacks by philosophically related causes.  Do-not-call lists do not apply to non-commercial operations, so one random act of generosity may introduce you to a wide world of neediness.  I only have so much compassion, idealism and dough to go around. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

One Pence Does Not Buy Much

Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Before we go down to Chinatown for lunch, let's take a look at popular culture.  Today's paper refers to "the running squabble between Ms. _____ and Mr. ____, a gripping but unfortunate beef that puts two of the leading pop stars of the day at loggerheads."  If I had not read the article, I would not have any idea how to fill in the blanks.  I don't know about you, but even when the names are revealed to me, I don't give a damn.  My exposure to their work has been fitful, probably a few minutes here and there on "Saturday Night Live."  That gave me no reason to further explore their work; I can only distinguish them by gender and race.  

Am I missing something?  At what point does being an old coot take over your critical faculties and lock you into a negative mindset about anything new or different?  Or, has experience given you an ability to fast forward through the riot of entertainment/cultural offerings available?  How much time and effort should we divert from enjoying Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis or Joan Baez to attend to the latest pop phenom?  And there's my petard, waiting to hoist me.  How did those greats emerge?  Do I have the responsibility to help uncover future greats?  Can I trust someone else to do it?

I went downtown to meet Ilana M., a former colleague from the court system, for lunch at aux Epices, 121 Baxter Street (April 16, 2013, August 22, 2014).  Behind the French name, aux Epices has a pan-Asian menu.  It's a small place with tables close together, close enough to encourage the two women next to us to ask us we recommend what to eat and where to shop nearby.

I ordered three "small plates," crispy anise duck rolls (3 four-inch cylinders, $6), Hijiki fish dumplings (5 boiled dumplings, $6), and a crab cake (served with a small salad, $8).  The crab cake was excellent, with a mustardy aioli sauce.  The other two dishes were well prepared, but nondescript.  The rolls did not taste of duck and dumplings did not taste of fish.  Their flavor came from the sauces accompanying them.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2016
I'm still trying to work out the math when someone's third wife, speaking in her second language, only plagiarizes 7% of her speech.

In case you don't want to wait until November, the New York Times tells us that Hillary Clinton has a 75% chance of winning the presidential election.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
I was privileged today to have lunch with Joe F., my rabbi.  Joe isn't ordained or anything.  He's a successful lawyer, who has met a lot of people during his career, always honoring his commitments, keeping secrets and promises, and standing up for friends in need.  That's what I mean by a rabbi.  He is nimbly handling a serious medical problem now, as he has handled challenging personal issues for himself and others over the years, myself included.

We ate at Joanne Trattoria, 70 West 68th Street, the family enterprise for Lady Gaga's parents.  While I think that prices reflected a celebrity bonus of a buck or two, little else about the restaurant evoked show biz glitz.  The food was quite good.  We shared a Tuscan bean salad ($18.95), big enough for three hearty eaters.  I had an oven-baked frittata ($19.95), with mushrooms, spinach, mozzarella and hot Italian sausage, chosen from a long list of ingredients.  This was one of four breakfast items served at lunchtime Wednesday through Sunday, in addition to the fairly conventional Italian menu.  No one sang.  

Friday, July 22, 2016
In these stressful days, you sometimes come across some cheerful information.  In this case, it is the high density of libraries in the Czech Republic, about 10 times per capita more than the USA.

If you don't want to take the trouble to read the article, at least enjoy the photograph that accompanied it, a little bit of heaven in my eyes.

Since Irwin P., another CCNY grad, was willing to venture forth in the 90+ degree heat, I joined him for lunch at Wa Jeal Sichuan Chili House, 1588 Second Avenue.  Its good reputation attracted me, even though it is far removed from my cherished Chinatown.  The restaurant is not very big, about 20 two tops in different arrangements.  It is decorated in tasteful Chinese restaurant style.  Service was attentive, although only two other tables needed to be attended to while we were there. 

Wa Jeal's regular menu shows prices befitting its Upper East location, but we made a wise and strategic choice by sticking to the lunch menu.  It offers 38 dishes mostly at $8.95, a few at $10.95, soup and rice included.  We ordered 3 lunches to provide variety -- spicy eggplant, chicken with mushrooms and beef chow fun (all $8.95).  We accepted the waitress's offer to substitute spring rolls for the hot soup.  All the dishes were good and generously proportioned for lunch specials.   However, the spicy eggplant was not particularly spicy hot.   The big glass of water that I kept immediately at hand, prompted by the restaurant's name, proved unnecessary.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Equal Time

Monday, July 11, 2016
This weekend, I did what many people might consider impossible, I purchased a smart TV.  Not that my spending money was inconceivable, but rather the near-oxymoronic idea of a "smart TV."  A device gains this label if it adds Internet and video streaming services, such as Netflix, to the basic television system.  I made the purchase, with the able assistance of Mossad Moshe, in order to provide a better picture when I retreat into the den/music room/guest room/study/computer room/library to follow the fortunes of the New York Mets and the New York Rangers. However, I have already come to appreciate having unfettered access to John Oliver, among others, on YouTube. It amounts to one less remote control to fumble with and a single source for all my visual delight, interpersonal activities aside.

I had lunch today with Marjory Fields, retired New York State Supreme Court justice, the person who gave me my first job in the court system, may she be forever blessed.  She retired ten years early to work on domestic violence policy issues that could not be addressed adequately from the bench.  These days, she is as likely to appear at a conference in Tokyo as at a hearing in the Bronx.

We went to Land, Thai Kitchen, 450 Amsterdam Avenue, a long, narrow space, with 10 two-tops inside and another 4 on the sidewalk.  Marjory ordered the lunch special, one of 8 first courses and one of 10 second courses, for $9, choosing green papaya salad and Wok Vegetable Medley with Tofu (but asking them to skip the tofu), a reasonable amount of food for the money.  I was hungry, so I ordered full size portions, satay chicken ($9) and Pad See Ew with Beef ($11).  The latter was a very well prepared Thai version of beef chow fun, broad noodles, in a rich, dark soy sauce.  The satay though was a disappointment, three paper thin rectangular strips of white meat chicken, about 5 inches by 1 inch, accompanied by peanut sauce.  Peanut sauce is always good, like drawn butter with seafood, hot fudge with ice cream or honey mustard with fried chicken, but it didn't make the dish worth more than half the price.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016
I am reading When Affirmative Action Was White by Ira Katznelson, a book that I should have read 10 years ago when first published.  It's a book that should have been written 50 years ago before the sophistry of the claims of reverse discrimination took hold.  Every paragraph seems to identify policies overtly legislated or administered to disadvantage black Americans, forgetting, if at all possible, legally mandated segregation.  For instance, New Deal wages and hours laws specifically excluded farmworkers and domestics from coverage, categories holding more than a majority of black workers at the time.  Only in 1954, a Republican administration opened the rolls.  Benefits under the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Federal Housing Authority, Aid to Dependent Children and the GI Bill, among other programs, were administered locally, without any attempt to avoid disparate racial treatment.   This, of course, was responsive to the critical role of southerners in the Democratic Party.  Ironically, many black men were kept out of harm's way by bigoted local draft boards during World War II, but thereby denied the educational and economic advantages of military service.

Unlike the current Chief Justice of the United States and other newly-minted egalitarians, Katznelson recognizes that generations of economic, political, educational and social repression continue to make a difference.  We are still far removed from leveling the playing field that our white predecessors so effectively tilted.

Wednesday, July 13, 2106
Stony Brook Steve met me for lunch at Bonmi, Vietnamese Sandwiches & Bowls, 150 West 62nd Street, a Frenchified name for Banh Mi, the Vietnamese national sandwich.  It's a bright, clean, airy place, just down the block from several units of Fordham University and across the street from Lincoln Center.  It might be any fast food joint and we agreed that it's unlikely to draw a pre-opera crowd because of its casual seating arrangements (high tables, low tables, a ledge) and ordering procedure.  Also, Steve observed that the layout of Lincoln Center brings almost all foot traffic in through Broadway or West 65th Street, avoiding the public housing project on Amsterdam Avenue, the western boundary of Lincoln Center.  Only those who found cheap parking south and west of the complex are likely to come down West 62nd Street on their way to a performance. 

You go up to Bonmi's counter, pick a base -- sandwich, rice bowl, noodle bowl, salad greens -- then a filling -- chicken, pork, beef, tofu -- and, finally, a sauce -- lemongrass, five spice, BBQ, chili garlic or red curry.  The filling determines the price, $8 to $10.50.  I splurged on the "18 Hour Beef" with red curry on a baguette, dressed with pickled onions, shredded carrots, and cilantro ($10.50).  The shredded beef sandwich was very good and very spicy.  Unfortunately, it was about twice the price of a downtown banh mi, but, on the other hand, we weren't downtown.  Bonmi's pricing reflected the expensive real estate on which it sat.   And, if you are heading to Lincoln Center, it offers an interesting, low cost alternative to the array of restaurants in the immediate vicinity equipped waiters and tablecloths and liquor and menus, as long as you can find it.
Friday, July 15, 2016
The fabled Four Seasons, 99 East 52nd Street, founded in 1959, closes tomorrow.  I first entered the Four Seasons in 1980, shortly after starting work as a management consultant at the Park Avenue headquarters of the massive international accounting firm Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co., since poetically renamed KPMG.  I soon benefitted from the firm's custom of taking new employees to lunch and quickly joined a group of marauders who constantly scouted the cubicles filling the 35th floor for new faces to bring to table. 

Partners of the firm regularly used their expense accounts at the tony restaurants found around us in the East 50s, the Le's and the La's, as I used to characterize them -- La Caravelle, La Grenouille, La Côte Basque and Lello's (a personal favorite although it did not properly have an article and a noun). We did our best to follow in the footsteps of our betters in spending the firm's money and closest to our office and best of all to my mind was the Four Seasons. While the other joints flashed wealth and glamour, the Four Seasons reeked of power and influence.

The food was consistently good; I've never had better duck in China, Chinatown or France. The markup on wine was less outrageous than most other places. The setting was elegant; the decor, changed four times a year, couldn't be more tasteful. But, what really grabbed me was the level of haute equality at which it operated. Even if your old school tie was only Stuyvesant High School, as long as you (male) wore a jacket and tie, you were treated professionally and efficiently. No smarmy gestures of familiarity; no frosty postures of formality. When Orson Welles sat at the next table, service at my table proceeded respectfully and evenly.

I came to appreciate the total experience at the Four Seasons enough that I would periodically spend my own money there.  I hope that you also had at least one afternoon or evening there, allowing yourself to enjoy, even briefly, how good life can be.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Mazal Tov, Mr. Bloomberg

Monday, July 4, 2016
If you think that merely singing "Happy Birthday" over the telephone to your three-year old granddaughter is adequate, you are sorely remiss in following the "Grandparents' Bill of Rights and Responsibilities."  Accordingly, the Upper West Side's Power Couple drove to Massachusetts on Saturday in order to participate in Sunday's Exciting Birthday Celebration, featuring a pink-frosted, otherwise all-chocolate, layer cake made with TLC by the only Harvard-educated member of our family.

Saturday night, our total group of nine went to Chinese Mirch, 140 Worcester Road Framingham, MA, for dinner.  Mirch is a chili pepper used in Indian cooking and the restaurant's name signifies the combination of cuisines.  Another branch had operated in Manhattan's Curry Hill, but is now closed.  I could not keep track of everything that appeared on our table, but I fondly recall what I consumed, namely Vegetable Ball Manchurian (minced carrot, corn and green bean fritters), Cumin Lamb (stir-fried with Xiao-Shing wine and dried chili flakes), Lettuce Wrap (with crisp corn), Hyderabadi Chili Chicken (with Chef's Indian Spice Mix) and Shag Paneer (cheese cubes sauteed in spinach).  The women and children, with the notable exception of my young bride, sought refuge in the figurative lifeboats of bland, unspiced food, unrepresentative of the kitchen's prowess.  Fortunately, the hearty young man seated opposite also enjoyed the hot and spicy cuisine as much as I did.  

New York has a kind of business called an appetizing store.  I doubt if the term is used anywhere else, with the possible exception of colonies of displaced Jews in Southern Florida.  It is not the opposite of an unappetizing store.  Rather, it is a grocery store specializing in Jew food -- lox, whitefish, pickled herring, bagels, and such.  While there used to be one in every Jewish neighborhood, now there are a few eminent establishments remaining that draw from far and near, notably Zabar's and Russ & Daughters.  Thanks no doubt to an aggressive PR person, the New York Times has an article this weekend on Sable's, a successful appetizing store on the Upper East Side. 

What caught my eye was this sentence: "In 2005, Sable’s provided the caviar for the wedding of Michael R. Bloomberg’s older daughter."  Just think, the Bloombergs, inevitably lured by their genetic ties to millennia of Hebraic civilization, rushed to Sable's to evoke the flavors of the shetl for their simcha.  Next, we will find out that Bernie Sanders bought a jar of mustard at the Second Avenue Delicatessen.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016
While we are celebrating New York, after a fashion, let's note another distinction.  New York is not now considered the rudest city in America.

It seems that we have been outclassed (??) by Miami and Phoenix.  But, don't ask me.  I can't think of any reason to visit either place.

Thursday, July 7, 2016
The Boyz Club had lunch at New Style Hand Pulled Noodles, 23 Pell Street, née Shanghai Gourmet, a longtime favorite.  Branding aside, the interior appeared unchanged, but the menu effectively combined new and old.  We tried several items that SG had done so well, specifically the soup buns (very good) and scallion pancakes (superb).  We also shared String Bean with Szechuan Style, beef chow ho fun (wide noodles, presumably hand pulled), and spicy cumin lamb with spongy buns, and agreed that each dish was excellent, notable because this group rarely agrees on anything.  Generous souls that we are, we rounded way up and paid a total of $16 per.  Kudos to the New Style Hand Pullers for making such a successful transition.  

Friday, July 8, 2016
Has our choice boiled down to killer cops or cop killers?

Stony Brook Steve and I ventured forth and had lunch at El Mitote, 208 Columbus Avenue, a small Mexican café, my second visit.  With the temperature in the high 80s, we passed right by the handful of outside tables, and sat in the almost comfortable inside.  I ordered the Barbacoa (origin of the word barbecue) braised lamb tacos, shredded, spicy lamb generously piled on three small, soft tortillas.  I partially rolled each one up and somehow covered only my hands with the shower of sauce that emerged with each bite.  A fine, messy dish.

An added benefit of going to El Mitote is the immediate next door presence of Magnolia Bakery, 200 Columbus Avenue, originally of Greenwich Village, now with branches around the world.  Once upon a time, Magnolia might be avoided because of its association with Sex and the City.  However, a serious devotion to carbohydrates now requires patronage at Magnolia, which has retained its focus on cupcakes, layer cakes, dessert bars, pies and cookies (a/k/a the work of the Lord).  No salads, soups or sandwiches drain the time or energy of the creative kitchen crew.  In fact, the only vegetable found in Magnolia goes into the carrot cake.   Delicious, too.

Friday, July 1, 2016

There and Back

Monday, June 27, 2016
We drove north to Caesarea, an ancient city on the Mediterranean.  Our target was the Ralli 1 Museum, a strange and wonderful place that I had never heard of before.  Ralli 1 is really the third museum in the Ralli Museum group, founded by Harry Recanati, who made his fortune in banking.  The others are in Uruguay, Chile, and Spain.  The museum is remarkable for many reasons.  It is funded privately.  There is no admission charge; there is no commercialization, that is, no gift shop, no bookstore, no T-shirts.  Photography is banned.  Simple explanatory materials were kept out of sight behind a counter.  

The building is also notable.  It is large, airy, bright, Spanish.  It reminded me of the hacienda where Zorro spends his downtime.  Internally, it is a very large octagon, containing smaller octagons.  It has five galleries on three levels, two levels filled with contemporary Latin American art as well as a collection of two dozen or so Dali sculptures.  Scattered throughout the premises were hulking, blackened bronze sculptures of native women.  On the bottom floor, there was a fascinating archeological exhibition about the origins of Caesarea as a Roman colony founded by King Herod 2,000 years ago, and its growth under successive regimes.  On display were artifacts throughout the ages.  Mirabile dictu, the wall plaques explaining the exhibits were mostly in clear English.  The Hebrew seemed to be an afterthought.  While I have admitted previously that gift shops are usually my favorite parts of museums, Ralli 1 gets my enthusiastic endorsement even though it's only art for art's sake.

Sunday, we went to Jerusalem to visit Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, where neither of us had been  in 20 years or so.  Even after three hours, we could not absorb all the ugly truths that it tried to present.  It's hard to ignore the contemporary parallels, yet the geographic and   numeric enormity of the Holocaust protects its vicious uniqueness.
Today, we went to the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.  Although we did not take advantage of it, this museum sits right next to the Palmach Museum and the Yitzhak Rabin Center, which visited together would make a long and highly diverse day.  The Eretz Israel (Land of Israel) Museum is itself really a collection of small institutions in separate quarters including a numismatic pavilion, a postal history and philately pavilion, a ceramics pavilion, a glass pavilion, a copper mining pavilion, and a planetarium, surrounding an archaeological excavation.  

It may be that everything in the museum(s) may also be found somewhere else in one form or another.  However, what I found special was the connection to the place where I was standing, give or take a few dozen kilometers.  Two thousand year old coins, fifteen hundred year old mosaics, four thousand year old wine jugs, used and unearthed right here.  By contrast, the well-stocked gift shop was purely contemporary and centralized in one convenient location.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Mark Nazimova sends along this interesting article on the Chinatown produce scene.

While it's no surprise that the Wall Street Journal extols a market, any market even one in fruits and vegetables, I have been a happy customer of these street vendors for years, especially pursuing champagne mangoes, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.  So, stroll over to the intersection of Canal Street and Mulberry Street after your hearty lunch at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, and pick up some natural sweetness.

I believe that Brexit will lead to some unfortunate political and economic consequences, but, short term, it has produced some good humor.  Michael Makovi, an Israeli studying for a Ph.D. in Texas (what a formula for chutzpah) has produced this list of successors: Grexit, Departugal, Italeave, Czechout, Oustria, Finish, Slovakout, Latervia, Byegium.  "Only Remania will remain."  

I recommend the Bakery, 260 Dizengoff Street, for excellent bread, croissants, muffins, pastries, and other vital ingredients in a modern man's diet.  One of their wonderful creations is a chocolate halvah muffin.  Unlike most of their other customers, I don't pause at one of the half dozen tables on the sidewalk, instead rushing off to our apartment two short blocks away to overindulge in private.  They have four other locations around Tel Aviv.  

I did have a dispute with the young woman at the counter this morning (her English was flawless) about babka.  When I admired the chocolate babka she was handing over to a customer in front of me, she corrected me (always risky business).  She said that babka could only be cinnamon, not chocolate.  Well, I told her that when she comes to New York, with ideas like that, she better avoid the entire Upper West Side.

Because I am impatient and because parking is very difficult in our neighborhood, I went downstairs around 4:40 P.M. to wait for our friends Itamar & Phyllis Nacht, who entertained us so well ten days ago at their home, who were joining us for our last evening in Tel Aviv.  It's a busy spot, but Double Standard, the bar on the corner, doesn't open until around six, so I positioned myself to see and be seen from all directions.  

After a while, a young woman, 20ish, simply but carefully dressed and made up, came to the corner and started looking around, discreetly looked me up and down, and waited.  Several minutes passed.  Oh, no, I feared that she was waiting at the popular corner of Nordau and Dizengoff for the "Tall, prematurely gray, non-observant, European-appearing man, no tats, no piercings, wishes to meet sincere woman for walks on the beach, candlelit dinners and maybe more," who she found on J-Date.  She soon walked away, no doubt muttering something about "truth in advertising" in Hebrew.

Our friends arrived a bit later and we headed to Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish neighborhood to be built outside the old city of Jaffa.  While many buildings and streets there  show their age, gentrification has also taken hold, which seems to be characteristic of any part of Tel Aviv that has a building standing more than 30 years.  We ate at Goshen, 30 Nahalat Binyamin Street, a Kosher restaurant about to move across the street to quarters twice as large.  It is known for its meat and we dug in.  We shared roasted chicken livers on stewed fruit (mostly raisins) (38 NIS, $9.80) and lollipop wings (36 NIS), panko-coated, deep-fried chicken wings.  There was a particularly pretty salad that tasted good, too.  

They served us complimentary rice balls, arancini di riso as my grandmother never called them.  I ordered lamb chops (130 NIS for 300 grams), accompanied by a mashed root vegetable (otherwise unidentified).  An excellent plate.  The other folks enjoyed their steak and hamburgers.  It was a fitting conclusion to our two weeks in Israel, although I hope that young woman returns to the corner of Nordau and Dizengoff soon on the arm of מר צודק (Mr. Right).

Wednesday, June 29, 2016
We awoke to the news of the deadly bombing at the Istanbul Airport, which had been our original transfer point for our flight home today.  Instead, I found a good deal on a non-stop El Al flight leaving this afternoon.  If all goes well, we will be back in the Holy Land before the day ends.

Thursday, June 30, 2016
Yesterday was a long, dull day, which is probably the best that you can hope for when flying from the Middle East to the United States. 

I can't blame it on jet lag or the dramatic time difference (7 hours) which got me out of bed by 5:30 AM, but today's New York Times crossword puzzle really puzzled me.  I finished it, that wasn't the problem.  However, Thursday invariably has a gimmick, sometimes different letters in the same box across and down, or a word instead of one letter in a box.  This time the answers eventually emerged from the fog, but purely by deduction.  Even with the puzzle complete, I had no idea how the clues -- strings of capital letters and numbers -- connected to the answers, even after one of the answers was identified as the key to these opaque items.  For example,  TB8L = Adored superstar.  If you share my pedantic obsession, or a similar one of your own, an explanation is found at

Friday, July 1, 2016
Up again at 5;30 AM, half past noon back there.  Somewhat impatiently, we waited several hours before calling our adorable granddaughter on her third birthday.  Then, I went back to sleep.  

I met Mossad Moshe for lunch at the Hummus Place, 305 Amsterdam Avenue, to make up for a glaring oversight on our trip to Israel.  I never had any falafel, prized by Jew and Arab alike throughout the region.  Hummus Place, always busy, often too noisy, did a good job filling this gap. I gave Moshe some confidential information, which might be mistaken for gossip, and passed one secret document -- a picture of him appearing to have a good time.