Friday, August 26, 2016

Where To?

Monday, August 22, 2016
Three headlines from the New York Times (on-line edition) combine to tell a story about current affairs in America.

"Alienated and Angry, Coal Miners See Donald Trump as Their Only Choice"

"Reeling From Effects of Climate Change, Alaskan Village Votes to Relocate"

"Know English? For New York Cabdrivers, That’s No Longer Required"

Donald Trump's promise "to bring back coal" has resonated with coal miners, who have seen their jobs disappear continually over decades.  In 2013, just over 80,000 coal miners were employed, down from a high of almost 785,000 in 1920.  Their communities have suffered along with the individuals who have lost their jobs, and the hardships are apparent and easily exploited.  

However, you don't have to be an epidemiologist to conclude that this economic dislocation has saved lives, not just from reducing the environmental damage of mining and burning coal, but of coal miners  themselves.  A 2008 study concluded: "Elevated mortality rates persisted in Appalachian coal mining areas after further statistical adjustment for smoking, poverty, education, rural-urban setting, race/ethnicity, and other variables."  
This wasn't news.  A 1963 study stated that "Death rates for [coal] miners are nearly twice those all working men in the United States.  They remain higher, even when deaths due to accidents and other violence are excluded."

So, coal miners, often following ingrained patterns of behavior, seek to maintain and expand jobs without consideration of their own health and probably that of their families, never mind the environmental toll of mining and burning coal.  Unemployment certainly takes its toll and I don't pretend that current and future unemployed miners will move into the 21st century job market at any measurable rate.  Their future is bleak and help is needed from the government, not to support an industry that destroys its workers and the air and water quality of the community at large, but in providing a semblance of financial stability and dignity to this generation of miners while offering their children education and training, a path to bourgeoisification instead of lung cancer, emphysema and a variety of pulmonary diseases.

This is a harsh prescription, but an inevitable one.  The next story describes an even harsher prescription for a community.  "Residents of a small Alaskan village voted this week to relocate their entire community from a barrier island that has been steadily disappearing because of erosion and flooding attributed to climate change."  About 600 people live on the island of Sarichef, about one-quarter mile wide and two-and-a-half miles long, where "more than 200 feet of the shore has been eaten away since 1969."  Yet, "some locals were resistant to uprooting their history and heritage from a place that has been inhabited for 400 years."  Much remains uncertain, including the new location for the community and the funding.  
While the population of coal miners vastly exceeds Sarichef, other communities throughout the world are facing or are about to face the same dramatic threat from climate change.  A British study found that "by the middle of the century, 200 million people may become permanently displaced due to rising sea levels, heavier floods, and more intense droughts."

Finally, I find there is news from New York City about eliminating a language requirement for taxicab drivers, an unfortunate development.  This move is supposed to aid immigrants, although they don't seem to need it. "[O]nly 4 percent [of licensed drivers] are born here, according to the taxi commission, and that figure has been dropping, from about 62 percent in 1980 and 36 percent in 1990."  Are these drivers, 24% from Bangladesh and 10% from Pakistan, taking jobs away from the friends and family of Jared Kushner?  Are taxi garages displaying signs "No Americans need apply"?  Does learning to drive in West Virginia permanently disqualify an applicant for a New York chauffeur's license?  Or, are fleet owners happy to employ presumably docile immigrants, rather than good ol' country boys?

Personally, I oppose the change.  Over the years, I have had to take over navigation of taxicab rides from drivers unfamiliar with the lay of the land.  On one occasion, I recall a driver going over the Triborough Bridge throwing dollar bills into the coin basket for collecting tolls.  Such random episodes may have been the result of inexperience and the low level of geographic competence that New York City already imposes, unlike the famous "Knowledge" demanded of London taxicab drivers.  Even if GPS reduces the need to read and understand signage, which I doubt, understanding the passenger is the first step in a safe and efficient taxicab ride.  If passengers are unable to speak English, they must do as we have done in foreign countries, present our destination in writing.  We never thought twice whether our driver could actually read the French, Spanish, Hebrew, or Czech address that someone has taken the trouble to provide us.   Lowering the communication skills of New York City cab drivers will be a disservice to the public and the mostly foreign-born existing driver population.

Unlike generations of Americans before them, including our local taxicab drivers, who crossed oceans and continents to improve their lot, the prototypical Trump voter seems to be sitting back and waiting for good things to be delivered, a posture usually reserved for trust fund babies.  Ironically, it could only be Big Government that could effect the turnaround these folks desire, a position at odds with conventional Republican policy.  Change isn't easy; ask the inhabitants of Sarichef. 
Stony Brook Steve and I went uptown, to the neighborhood of Columbia University to have lunch at Massawa, 1239 Amsterdam Avenue, an Ethiopian restaurant.  It was a simple, boxy space, with an almost featureless interior.  Service was friendly, however.  We shared beef sambusa, deep-fried, beef-filled flaky triangles ($7 for four).  I had tsebhi beghe, lamb cooked with berbere, a chile and spice blend, which produced a nice level of heat ($12).  Lentils and a small salad were served with it, spread on a 12" round of injera, a spongy flat bread.  No utensils are provided (I won't squeal); other pieces of injera are used to scoop up the food, inevitably coating your fingers as well.  I enjoyed the food and the experience.

Tuesday, August 23, 2106
At the beginning of this month, the New York State Education Department announced the results of the statewide English and math tests given to students in grades 3-8.  The results for New York City students seemed woeful to me: 38% scored at grade level in English and 36% in math.  On the other hand, this was equal to or slightly less than scores throughout the state.  Or, if the tests are considered fair and representative, the whole system stinks.  

I admit that I am viewing this from afar, with no children in these schools and personally long removed from attendance.  Parents seem much more relaxed at the demonstrated performance levels.  On the just-released New York City Education Department's annual survey, supposedly with over one million responses, "95 percent of parents said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the education their child received during the 2015-16 school year, the same percentage as the year before."  

By my arithmetic, only about 38% of the parents should be satisfied with the education their child received.  Is it possible that many of these respondents are themselves the recent product of the New York City school system and are unable to make sound judgments about the quality of education?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Stony Brook Steve, that intrepid gourmand, had the same idea that I had after reading the review of Bolivian Llama Party, 1000 Eighth Avenue, in this morning's paper.  Please note, before you venture forth, that there is no structure identified as 1000 Eighth Avenue.  It is not an address; it's a notion, like east of the Sun and west of the Moon.  

BLP is located in the Columbus Circle subway station, A, B, C, D and #1 trains.  It it outside the turnstiles, so you don't have to spend money to get there from the street.  Go down any of the staircases at the intersection of Eighth Avenue and 57th Street, and you will find a cluster of newly-opened food stands, collectively called TurnStyle, including BLP.  Some high tables and stools provide seating.  In spite of the simplicity of the setting and the noisy African percussionists a few feet away, put BLP on your give-it-a-try list.

It features salteñas, a popular Bolivian street food.  Bigger than an empanada, with a thicker crust, their fillings are between a soup and a stew, so they have to be approached with care to avoid damage to tongue, lips and clothing.  We each had a chimba (chicken) salteña ($6) and shared a beef brisket chola (sandwich) ($12), dressed with pickled carrots and onions marinated in beer, one of the best things that I've eaten in years.  The chola was also a bit messy, but emitted less liquid than the salteñas.    

Thursday, August 25, 2106
I know that you thoroughly trust my judgment and follow my advice on all critical matters, starting with food.  However, if you ever seek a second opinion, you might look at Opinionated About Dining, a web site for deep gullets and even deeper pockets.  It combines the (re)views of 150 people from around the world, none personally known to me, although some are hidden behind noms de Internet.  "Lady in Pink" might in fact be someone near and dear.  Entry to the group requires a certification process, which I've begun.  

While waiting to make the cut, I am looking over OAD's list of Top 100 U.S. Restaurants 2016.  As with other similar elite lists, I find myself on the outside looking in.  The first New York City entry, Chef's Table, comes in at #12, although seven of the next eight are here in the Holy Land, absent my patronage.  I might have a claim at #17, Jean Georges, 1 Central Park West, because I've eaten in its front room, a café bearing its own name, Nougatine.  

While New York City establishments are scattered throughout the rest of the list, I get my only other hit at #84, Gramercy Tavern, 42 East 20th Street, although that was in the last century.  Needless to say, Chinatown never appears on OAD's radar.  I think, therefore, that my chances to be admitted to the club are pretty weak.  Of course, since most of these joints are of the many, many courses of small portions at high prices type, rejection may be a kindness.

Friday, August 26, 2016
Speaking of mobility, here is a very interesting feature on the movement of college students in response to declining support for higher education, apparently finding better deals as out-of-state students away from home.

While the number of students coming to and going from each state is provided, the financial data which supposedly motivates them is missing along with other vital information.  How much of a bargain can the University of Arizona be   when 139 days of the year are over 90 degrees in Tucson and 43 are over 100?

Finally, if you want to drive the sociologists in your household crazy, ask them to explain why West Virginia, the poster child for the angry and alienated, attracts 4,022 students from out of state to its public colleges, while only 372 of its own leave.  

Friday, August 19, 2016

Farewell Fyvush

August 15, 2106
What a weekend.  New York City had "real feel" temperatures of 106 to 110 degrees, with actual temperatures reaching 96 degrees.  Saturday, I ventured three blocks from home, but after that I stayed close to the air conditioning units and the refrigerator.

Please read Joe Berger's affectionate obituary of Fyvush Finkel, who died over the weekend.  

After delighting in his performance as Mr. Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors in the early 1980s, I found that we lived in the same neighborhood and I started running into Fyvush regularly on the street or the Second Avenue bus.  I would greet him effusively, lubricating the encounter with a word or two of Yiddish.  This, in turn, evoked a warm, hearty response from him, a dear man.  

In the company of Barbara and Bernie F., cousins of cousins, we ate dinner at Laut, 15 East 17th Street, a Malaysian restaurant that earned a Michelin star in 2011, later removed.  It is an attractive space, with a brown-painted tin ceiling and a long exposed brick wall covered with a vividly-colored mural.  We were on the way to a performance, so we did not indulge in course after course, only having a bit here and a bit there.  

I ordered nasi lemak, considered the national dish of Malaysia, containing chili shrimp, chicken curry, pickled vegetables, chili anchovies, boiled egg, peanuts and cucumbers surrounding a mound of rice.  It was good, but at $16.50 only the real estate justified the price.  I went back to see how much I paid for nasi lemak at various other Malaysian restaurants, admittedly all in the vicinity of Chinatown.  The earliest serving was the cheapest, $5.95 on July 30, 2010.  The $7.75 highest price came on April 17, 2015.  Almost exactly one year ago, on August 5, 2015, Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street, in its second week of operation, had probably the best at $7.50, where it seems to have remained.  The same discrepancy in pricing appeared with roti canai, the Indian pancake and curry sauce appetizer, which I often start a Malaysian meal with.  Not just our tight schedule, but the $9 Laut asked deterred me.  Wok Wok, again with an excellent version, charges $3.75.  Maybe I need selective amnesia in order to enjoy Laut, probably forced to pay very high rent in the hot Union Square area.  

The show we saw after dinner was "The Golden Bride" (Di Goldene Kale, pronounced calla), a Yiddish operetta that was first produced in 1923.  It was presented with English and Russian supertitles.  It is a lightweight boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl story.  The first act is set in a Russian village, seemingly populated entirely by Jews, and the second in the US.  Nowhere is Czarist oppression, pogroms or anti-Semitism mentioned, a sort of anti-Fiddler on the Roof.  

There was some interesting politics in the second act, however, when Misha follows his beloved Goldele to America.  He sings, to no one in particular, "A grus fun dem nayem rusland" (Greetings from the New Russia), claiming peace and freedom for all, Jew and Christian explicitly, five years after the Revolution.  Before he brings this happy news, Misha recounts his travels throughout the world, Italy, Argentina, Japan and, take a seat, a place called Palestine, so enchanting that he leaves it only to continue his quest for Goldele.       

Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Some of my dear readers grew up in New York, but were later removed by force, no doubt.  So this headline in today's paper might leave them confused: "Sympathy for L Train Riders? Not in 'Subway Deserts'"  What's going on with the els (the elevated trains now typically found outside Manhattan)?  However, this does not address els generally, but the L train specifically, the current designation for the historic Canarsie line, in case you have been away for decades.  (For a wonderfully pedantic account of subway line identification, see

The L train runs across 14th Street in Manhattan, through a tunnel under the East River into Brooklyn.  About halfway through its Brooklyn route, it goes above ground and indeed becomes an el.  Since 2012, L trains have been equipped with a computer system that would allow fully automated operation, a first in New York City, trying to keep up with its doubling in ridership in the last 20 years.  However, public and union pressures have kept engineers and conductors on board.   

Now, a more potent force is about to stop the trains altogether, the subject of the newspaper story.  Hurricane Sandy (October 22-November 2, 2012) flooded the L train's tunnel, causing substantial damage, just one of the many destructive consequences of this historic storm.  Patchwork repair reopened the tunnel, but the transit authority has decided to effectively rebuild, something that New York's sports teams are unwilling to do.  

For three years, I rode the Canarsie line twice a weekday to go to Stuyvesant High School.  It was usually pretty empty, even during rush hour, because Brooklyn was still far from "cool".  Would I have traded the extra time for rerouting my path (Jamaica train to Canal Street, BMT to Union Square, walk about half a mile, instead of Jamaica train to Broadway Junction, Canarsie line to First Avenue, one block to the school) for not drowning under the East River?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016
The Upper West Side's Power Couple went for an overnight stay in order to participate in Eastern Massachusetts's leading August social event -- grandson Noam's 6th birthday party, featuring Darth Vader.  

Thursday, August 18, 2016
Just as bathrooms are being freed of gender specificity, so too are the names of American children.  Quickly: Emerson, boy or girl?  Delta, boy, girl or airline?
Friday, August 19, 2016 
I managed to meet Jerry S. for lunch today, clean shaven without scarring myself further.  We went to Phoenix Garden, 242 East 40th Street.  It's been in midtown for over 20 years, having started in the alley between the Bowery and Elizabeth Street, below Canal Street.  There, it came to be known for its Pepper & Salty Shrimp, which the boldest among us ate without removing the shell.  It also came to public attention for a moment of drama in New York civic history, when Ed Koch, then mayor, a great fan of Chinese food,   experienced nausea, dizziness and slightly slurred speech while eating there in 1987.  "After daylong tests, doctors said he had suffered a mild spasm of a brain artery and had recovered completely."  I have been unable to learn what he was eating at the time.  

We ordered lunch specials, generally $10-12, including a small bowl of hot and sour soup and a spring roll.  Jerry had sliced chicken meat with seasonal vegetables (with a touch of ginger) and I had deep-fried oysters (with two deep-fried   baby eggplants to fill up the plate).  Both dishes rated a B.   We shared a scallion pancake with curry sauce ($7.95), dry and chewy, not ready for the scallion pancake big leagues.  

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Hot Stuff

Monday, August 8, 2016
A recent book review by Marilyn Stasio, the New York Times crime/mystery specialist, refers to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst as "once considered 'the most violent campus in the country.'"  This caught my attention, because Dean Alfange, Jr., taught there for decades.  Was it possible that his retirement was a factor in pacifying the campus?  Stasio provides no attribution to this comment and my Google search uncovered at least a half dozen lists of campus crime with absolutely no consistency.  According to one source, UCLA was at the top of the list (where obviously the bottom was the desired destination); in another, Tufts University held the unwelcome distinction.  In fact, one publication crowned Amherst as the place to be feared, that is, Amherst College, the elite private institution about one mile south of the far larger public campus.  NB - Google replaced "violent" with "dangerous" and all the lists seemed to rely on that adjective as well.  So, clarification is needed.   Meanwhile, Dean remains at large.

In a rare television appearance today, Japan's Emperor Akihito suggested that he might step down from the throne because of his age, his physical limitations and his rigorous daily schedule.  By a seemingly unrelated coincidence, Alex Rodriguez, possibly the most controversial baseball player ever, announced yesterday that he was retiring from the New York Yankees at the end of this week.  To protect the tens of millions of dollars owed him under contract, Rodriguez will continue with the team as a "special advisor."  

I smell a rat, however.  Rodriguez was not only a superb athlete, but, not unlike DT, he rarely allowed a publicity opportunity to go unexploited, often without applying a filter of taste or judgment.  On the other hand, Japan is crazy for baseball and has become a major source of baseball players for our major leagues.  By another coincidence, Ichiro Suzuki, who came to American baseball 15 years ago after establishing himself as a star in Japan, got his 3,000th hit in American baseball yesterday, only the 30th person and fourth born outside the USA to accomplish this (third if baseball puts Puerto Rico on the same level as the states of the union, an act Congress is unwilling to countenance).  So, don't be surprised if Rodriguez assumes an imperial role in Japan and Akihito winds up in a Yankees uniform. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016
It might have been my eagerness at having lunch with Jerry S. at a Chinese restaurant in midtown that caused me to dig a new furrow on my upper lip as I was shaving.  Applications of toilet paper, ice and aluminum chloride finally stopped the bleeding, but I feared that during my subway ride to or fro the wound would open and, with red blood coating my lips and teeth, cause a vampire panic on the IRT.  So, I canceled reluctantly.  I later slunk off to Fairway Market and bought kosher tongue and kosher corned beef to make a larger than average sandwich, salvaging the day somewhat.

By the way, America's Favorite Epidemiologist left earlier today for a few days in Southampton, possibly adding to my inability to hold my hand steady.

The mail contained a screening questionnaire from the New York County Clerk for jury service, preliminary to a notice to serve.  I look forward to returning to the courthouse in this capacity.  While I was called for a panel about 10 years ago and dismissed, I haven't actually sat on a jury for much longer (I can't even remember).  Generally, judges get rid of lawyers as jurors to avoid being second guessed.  If and when asked, I'll emphasize my retirement, although that might call attention to my age and make me suspect as a dithering coot.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016
I remain alone in the nest, so I invited Mossad Moshe and his nephew Ofer, a lawyer from Israel, for drinks before we went to Boulud Sud, 20 West 64th Street, for dinner.  The food was very good, approaching the quality of the   company.  There were only a few Hebrew asides, so I didn't feel isolated.

And where it counted, the menu, there was no language barrier.  Boulud Sud, one of a three related restaurants in a   cluster opposite Lincoln Center, has a summer dinner special, three courses for $42, not cheap, but the location, the service and the food, of course, justified it.  I had a fig and prosciutto salad, roasted leg of lamb with couscous, Tunisian eggplant, and tzatziki, and what was called Dark Chocolate Biscotti, a thin slice of brownie, chocolate mousse and pistachio-black cherry gelato (worth half the price of dinner right there).  The check did not float entirely off the table, because we had liquored up first, so we passed on alcohol, usually the budget buster.

Thursday, August 11, 2016
Gil Glotzer, semi-retired attorney to the stars, joined me at the Mets game this afternoon, something that we had done so often before he relocated to Dixie.  With that auspicious start, the wretched performance of the Mets, one of the worst that I can recall witnessing in person, was especially deflating.  It was a very hot and humid day and we watched the entire game on a screen indoors in one of the "clubs" scattered around the field, not substantially different than watching the game at home.  

I anticipated retirement because it would allow me to go to the ballpark during the day, sitting in the great outdoors, getting home in time for dinner with my favorite wife.  However, on days like this, really enjoying the game, results aside, avoiding perspiration and sun stroke, may be best accomplished within the walls of the Palazzo di Gotthelf.  I better write a note to myself in case my memory gets fuzzy next year.  "Remember, New York in July and August is hot and steamy, and you don't want to spend money to sit fully exposed to the Sun for three or four hours.   That doesn't make any sense, does it?"

Friday, August 12, 2016 
After yesterday's fiasco at the ballpark, I was pleased that Gil was still willing to spend some more time in my company.  Or, maybe the presence of our respective wives allowed him to give me another chance.  In any case, the four of us had dinner ar Room Service, 690 Ninth Avenue, a Thai restaurant.  A long, narrow restaurant with a dramatic decor, it was very popular, too popular.  Possibly the 90% of the clientele under 30 had no trouble with the noise level, but our collection of Social Security collectors found it hard to hear each other's complaints.  

Noise was the only thing, however, to complain about Room Service.  We shared two salads, green papaya avocado salad ($6.50) and beef green apple salad ($9.90), large portions and good tasting.  Our main courses had those same characteristics.  I had "Peanut Sauce Fried Rice and Big Shrimps Satay" ($16.20), a portion I couldn't even finish.  The half dozen shrimp were not big, but nicely grilled.  The peanut sauce, as I have commented before, is a can't-fail ingredient, just like drawn butter or maple syrup.  If we only could keep the people away.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Gotthelf To Gotthelf

Monday, August 1, 2106
My radar system has apparently failed me. The Museum of Ice Cream, a temporary installation, opened on July 29th and will stay open until August 31st. I was unaware of its existence until I read that all 30,000 admission tickets have been sold.

Obviously, I stand no better than 30,001. However, once I read about what one might do, see and taste at the Museum of Ice Cream, I think that staying home, close to my freezer compartment, offers greater satisfaction. The museum seems to focus more on the sight and feel of ice cream (walking into a swimming pool of rainbow sprinkles, actually hard plastic pellets), rather than the taste.

Trying to trace a possible relative, I discovered the Gotthelf Art Gallery (GAG), in San Diego, California. It is housed in the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center on the Jacobs Family Campus of the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture, quite a mouthful, paying tribute to enough Jews to hold a decent seder. For better or worse, worse in my mind, naming rights seem to be a critical element in Jewish fundraising, where hardly a door knob goes unlabeled. 

GAG has been open for over 16 years, funded by Roanne and Henry Gotthelf, Southern Californians who may have once been in the New York metropolitan area. There is evidence that Henry went to Syracuse University at the same time that I was at CCNY, and that the couple later lived in New Rochelle. Nevertheless, I have no idea who they are. While cousin Jerry Latter has done a fabulous job documenting the Latter family, which includes my father's mother, the Gotthelfs remain a black box, a Polish black box at that, even harder to penetrate.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Another baseball game last night and another frustrating loss, to the dreaded Yankees no less. The evening was only partially redeemed by companion Jerry S. (a good guy in spite of his rooting interest) showing up with tickets for section 110, row 5 instead of the tickets that I held for section 514, row 13. That removed about 35,000 people between us and the action on the field.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016
After last week's official heat wave, we have been blessed by mild temperatures and low humidity so far this week. To enjoy this welcome change, I chose to walk the one kilometer to Mee Noodle Shop, 795 9th Avenue, which had proved so satisfying last week (July 26, 2016). This time, I focused on the noodle part of the joint's repertoire and asked for Singapore chow fun, which does not appear on its menu in spite of its great length.

This presented no challenge to the kitchen, which produced an excellent serving of curry-spiced noodles, pork, chicken, carrots, yellow onions, scallions, pea pod and cabbage ($8.25). But, Mee's efforts cannot be pronounced the best of all, because they failed a critical test. When you order noodles of any type at any place you should get a whole lot of noodles. Good or bad, a serving of noodles upon presentation must give you pause, "Can I eat all that?" Mee's noodles tasted great, but there weren't enough of them. Spare no expense (at least for a dollar or two more) and have the noodles fall over the side of the plate.

One virtue of this modest portion of Singapore chow fun was that it left room and incentive to continue eating. So, I walked over to Gotham West Market, 600 11th Avenue (45th Street), a location that once would have been approached on foot only by a New Yorker with a rap sheet. Today, with glossy high-rise residences on almost every corner of this neighborhood, Gotham West has created a food court of eight or nine joints serving variously Mexican food, ramen, tapas, BBQ, sushi, pub food, coffee and more than 100 beers, a good excuse for a song. 

My destination was ice cream, Ample Hills Creamery, a Brooklyn-based operation that mainly provides ice cream to better restaurants, while maintaining a few of its own stands, including one at Gotham West. This was no museum; there was no conceptual piece about the gestalt of ice cream, no contemplation of Eskimo Pie as the cultural expropriation of indigenous peoples' cuisine.

Zagat's has rated Ample Hills best in New York and my limited experience today does not conflict with that determination. I had two scoops in a medium-sized cup for $4.95, a reasonable price these days among the ice cream artisans. From the 12 flavors on hand, I chose Salted Crack[er] Caramel, salted caramel ice cream, with saltines covered in butter, sugar and chocolate (strongly resembling chocolate-covered graham crackers), and Chocolate Milk & Cookies, the most cookie-laden cookies and cream ice cream that I have ever had. Both flavors went to the head of the class.

Thursday, August 4, 2016
Yesterday, I ventured slightly more than one mile from home for lunch, with rewarding results. Today, I drove over 90 miles to Stone Ridge, New York, a hamlet north of Poughkeepsie, in order to have lunch with Susan Gotthelf, my niece, and Emma, her 11-year old daughter, a trip that satisfied more than just my appetite. They are here from Buenos Aires, where Susan has lived for 25 years, visiting her mother. One of Emma's brothers is a college student in California and the other is entering his senior year of high school in Argentina. Mother and daughter, however, are embarking on their own exciting adventure, moving to Shanghai, where Susan will become head librarian of an international high school.

They leave in less than two weeks and will undoubtedly face dramatic contrasts in the way of life in the two countries. After brief visits to both countries, I might characterize (caricature?) Argentines as casually indifferent to efficiency while Chinese manically pursue it in an often clumsy fashion.

By the way, we ate at Lekker's 209, 3928 Main Street, Stone Ridge, a comfortable café that does its own baking and makes its own soda and ice cream. I had one of the day's special sandwiches, shredded duck and melted brie on thick, toasted slices of country white bread. Commendable.

As to the West Coast Art Patron Gotthelfs, I have only encountered a full voice mailbox when trying to communicate with them. I may resort to a real letter.

Friday, August 5, 2016
The Boyz Club met today at Gazala's Place, 709 9th Avenue, a Druze restaurant recommended by Rob T.  Recollecting the excellent meal that I had at Elkheir Druze Cuisine in Haifa in late June, I was eager to try the local version. Gazala's, named for chef/owner Gazala Halabi, is a small, narrow joint with no money wasted on decor. Constantine, the young Russian waiter, was very helpful, although the menu on the whole was typically Middle Eastern. 

We shared a plate of cold and hot appetizers -- hummus, falafel, stuffed grapes leaves, meat cigars, tahini, lebanee (whipped goat cheese), taboule, and babaganoush, with large rounds of a crêpe-like bread. Then, we shared three small "pies," flattened pitas topped with herbs (mankosha), ground meat, and cheese. Lunch came to $15 each, a fair amount we agreed for very good food.

We Americans are involved in a major political campaign and are finding ourselves distressed at times by the quality of the rhetoric and appeals being made.  However, we should not forget that others are facing important elections and we might learn from how they approach their voters.  I am thinking specifically of the upcoming local and municipal elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where the incumbent Palestine Liberation Organization a/k/a Fatah is trying to hold off Hamas, the Islamic militant group.  As reported in the New York Times, Fatah claimed "one of its main achievements as having 'killed 11,000 Israelis.'"

Poor DT almost sounds sane by comparison.