Friday, October 28, 2016

How Are Things In Montenegro?

Saturday, October 22, 2016
We had a lecture this morning about the late 20th century Yugoslav War(s).  Croatians speak of the Homeland War, claiming that they were invaded by the predominantly Serbian Yugoslav Army, not beset by any local forces.  The fracturing of Yugoslavia into Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro is very proximate in time and consciousness.  The religious conflicts, which agitated this area for centuries, have now been concretized by borders.  Croatia and Slovenia are Roman Catholic, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro are Eastern (Serbian) Orthodox, Kosovo is Muslim, and Bosnia a volatile mix.  While the locals may have derived psychic benefits from national autonomy, the several independent countries seem destined to hang separately, sacrificing opportunity to vaunted pride.

We cruised on the motor yacht Futura for a couple of hours and landed at Korčula, a  long, skinny island, reputedly the home of Marco Polo.  For the linguists in the crowd allow me to point out that č is one of a few letters Croatian adds to the Roman alphabet, while eliminating some others.  It is not just c with an accent; it is pronounced ch.

Korčula has a fussily decorated cathedral and a few modest palaces.  The old town is surrounded by ramparts, affording a beautiful view of the sea.  Ten minutes is all it takes to walk the ramparts, demonstrating how small the old town is.  

What Korčula has is one very good restaurant, Filippi, Šetalište Petra Kanavelića (that's an address not a review) with 20 seats inside and maybe a dozen tables outside.  We were a party of six; tonight's dinner was at large, not on the Futura.  The host/waiter was extremely cordial even after he heard that we wanted separate checks.

I had the soup of the day, pureed zucchini cooked simply with salt, pepper and olive oil (40 HRK, $6).  Then, I had pappardelle with dark meat chicken cooked in a sweet soy sauce (120 HRK).  Other choices included roasted sea bass, ziti with shrimp and cherry tomatoes, and pappardelle with truffles.  Four of us shared a bottle of local white wine (260 HRK), making for an excellent meal.  All of Filippi's wine, along with most of the other ingredients are locally-sourced.

Korčula, like many other Croatian islands dependent on tourism, seems to hibernate during the fall and winter.  Filippi, however, stays open and I encourage you to drop in next time you are sailing the Adriatic Sea.

Sunday, October 23, 2016
We landed on Mljet (mil-yet) this morning, a sparsely populated, densely forested island, 2 miles deep and 20 miles long.  A good portion of the island was designated as a national park in 1960, the first of its kind in the Adriatic.  We hiked into the woods to the edge of Big Lake, actually a bay with a narrow outlet to the sea, causing a mix of fresh and salt water with the tides.  A small boat took us across the lake to St. Mary's Island, hardly bigger than a baseball field, on which a Benedictine monastery was built in the 12th century.  The building has been repurposed several times with each invasion, friendly or otherwise.  It now serves as a restaurant, poised to close for the season on November 1.  St. Mary's also holds a tiny cemetery, long out of commission, where bodies were buried vertically to save space.  

As a result of jiggling our schedule, we cruised to another small island this afternoon, Šipan, pronounced ship-ann, using one of the extra letters of the Croatian alphabet.  It has a pretty harbor and an array of old stone houses along the waterfront.  When you look a bit more closely you see that some of the houses are mere shells, no roofs, long deserted.  A big earthquake in 1979 drove some people away and the lack of opportunity increased the flight subsequently.  The population is now under 1,000.

As with the other small islands that we have visited, Šipan has an elementary school and a doctor in general practice.  Anything further in education or medical specialization requires a long boat ride to either Split or Dubrovnik.  A helicopter is called in for emergencies.

There were no special landmarks in the village, but the sight of pomegranate trees swollen with fruit was out of the ordinary for most of us.

Monday, October 24, 2016
We cruised for about two hours this morning to Dubrovnik, the southern tip of Croatia.  The actual distance that we covered Split to Dubrovnik is less than 200 kilometers, but this trip was not about haste.  

Before we went ashore to explore Dubrovnik, we had a very informative lecture by a young academic, that is someone under 60, about Dubrovnik's success as an independent city-state for four-and-a-half centuries until overrun by Napoleon.  

Dubrovnik's old town is completely walled in and probably the most charming place that we have visited, even with the dense presence of T-shirt shops, jewelry stores and restaurants.  It contains a cathedral (inevitably), the rector's palace (the rector was the appointed big cheese of the city-state), other mansions and churches, and narrow residential alleys at right angles to the main street running down the center.  

It also has a synagogue, apparently founded in the mid-16th century, larger and more formal in appearance than Split's synagogue.  The current Jewish population of Dubrovnik is around 50 and it seems never to have had a significant Jewish presence.  The synagogue's memorial to victims of the Nazis and local fascists has 27 names, while a plaque in the Split synagogue lists about 100 names.  These numbers, from the second and third largest cities in the country, come nowhere near the estimate of 33,000 Croatian Jews killed in the Holocaust, according to the United States Holocaust Museum.  

As in Split, the synagogue is only fitfully active, although it claims to be the oldest Sephardic synagogue in the world, and the second oldest of any type in Europe.  Tonight is Simchas Torah, a festive Holy Day, but sadly no observance is planned here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016
We slept aboard the Futura last night, which stayed docked in Dubrovnik, and we packed up and left the ship this morning.  Before heading south by bus, we returned to the old town.  I chose to walk the ramparts atop the walls that surround the old town.  The circuit is about 1-1/4 miles and rises to about 150 meters above the street on one side and the sea on the other.  The path is narrow; in most places two people are barely able to walk together.  The ramparts are generally about three feet tall on each side.  While there is only one route, there are two ways to handle it.  If you proceed normally, you can be finished in just over one hour.  I proceeded with terror, taking about two hours.  As slow as I was, my early start got me off the ramparts before the hordes from two gargantuan cruise ships swarmed over the old town.  At least, observing many of these folk made me feel somewhat youthful.

We crossed the border and arrived in Herceg (hertz-egg) Novi, Montenegro late in the afternoon.  I missed our group's introductory walking tour of the vicinity, because a couple of minor but time-consuming repairs had to be made to our room, which sits over a large infinity pool just in front of the seashore.  With the repairs made, I was able to sit on our terrace and record these thoughts.   

Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Today is the last full day of our tour and they kept us busy.  We took a bus to a pretty place with a church and then a boat to another pretty place with a church and then a bus to still another pretty place with lots of churches and then a ferry across the bay to shorten the drive back to our hotel.  

Actually, one stop stood out.  Lonely Planet call Kotor the "prettiest and best-preserved town in Montenegro."  It sits on the Adriatic Sea and originated over 2,000 years ago.  The walls surrounding the old town do not stop at the edge of the settlement, but rather climb 350 meters up the mountain behind it, resembling, if anything, the Great Wall of China.  One can walk the walls, just not this one.

I may seem fickle, but I now pronounce Kotor more charming than Dubrovnik, whose symmetry appealed to me; narrow alleys radiating from one main street, like the skeleton of a fish.  Kotor is quite the opposite; a random collection of narrow streets run 50 to 100 feet before entering into a plaza, which might have 1 to 4 exits.  Also, Kotor has some real stores and businesses along with the inevitable souvenir shops and restaurants.  Kotor's old town had more churches than Dubrovnik's, but it was more ecumenical, containing Eastern (Serbian) Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, the fuel for violence in the past.

Let me skip back to Montenegro 101.  Montenegro, an Italian word supposedly never used by the residents, joined with Serbia when Yugoslavia dissolved.  They shared the same religion and language, with minor variations.  It fought Croatia in the 1990s alongside Serbia.  However, in 2006, Montenegro declared its independence and established a fiscal policy that lead to its adoption of the Euro as its currency, even though it is not a member of the European Union.  

In spite of the historic divisions between them, Croatian influences are especially apparent in this northwest area of Montenegro.  In order to institutionalize "Montenegrin" as its official language, as declared by its 2007 constitution, in spite of its near identity with Serbian, Montenegro allows schoolchildren to choose whether to write the language in the Roman alphabet, à la Croatian, or in Cyrillic, à la Serbian.  This must yield either great mental dexterity or massive confusion.

Thursday, October 27, 2016
We had to get up at 3:30 AM in order to drive back to the nearest major airport, situated in Croatia, to catch a flight to Frankfurt and on to the Holy Land.  Free copies of the International New York Times and the Wall Street Journal at the airport helped me reset my biorhythms to their normal abnormal levels.  WSJ, in an article about the reshaping of the Republican Party, had one statistic that came as a surprise to me.  Of "the 100 poorest counties in America, 74 voted for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012."  That means that when Romney disparaged the 47% lower portion of the population "who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it," he failed to mention that they are also masochistic.

Friday, October 28, 2016
Back home, I consider our trip as successful on the whole, but I was disappointed in one regard.  Even though we visited Croatia's second and third largest cities and every known tourist spot along the Dalmatian Coast, I did not see that guy on a unicycle juggling flaming torches, that guy who always shows up at places like that.  Has he relocated to more financially rewarding venues, following the doctors, computer programmers, tattoo artists and scientists that he grew up with?  Is this an opportunity for (young, agile) refugees fleeing strife and violence to fill a niche in the world of Balkan show biz?

Parting shot

Friday, October 21, 2016

Croatian Journey

Monday, October 17, 2016
We arrived in Split, Croatia late Sunday morning. I quickly found that as little as I know about Croatian history and politics, I know even less about its geography.  Split is on the western edge of Croatia, along the Adriatic Sea, opposite Italy's eastern coast, roughly at the same latitude as Rome.  Zagreb is Croatia's capital, far inland.  The sight of palm trees surprised me; I don't think of them as European flora.

We are traveling with Road Scholar, which runs trips all around the world, always with an educational component.  It definitely appeals to an older population.  Our group of 21 has only three people not collecting Social Security.  On the other hand, members of this group seem to be more experienced travelers  than your ordinary collection of Americans.  We found the same on our Road Scholar trip to Portugal a few years ago.  The other most interesting demographic is the presence of only four men in the group. 

Croatia is a member of the EU, but does not use the Euro.  (We conclude our tour in Montenegro, where Nero Wolfe came from, which is not an EU member, yet uses the Euro as its currency.  Go figure.)  Croatia's currency is the Kuna (HRK), roughly just under seven to the dollar, or $.15 each.  I have to keep stashed the pile of crisp $1 bills that I got from the bank just before leaving, because the use of anything but the Kuna is more than discouraged, it is illegal for ordinary merchants.  Local prices seem moderate compared to other European locales.  For instance, the menu in the restaurant of our 4 (of 5) star hotel shows reasonable prices, such as, 10 HRK for a cup of espresso, 16 HRK for "white coffee" (more to an American's taste), 22 HRK for universally-beloved Coca Cola.  A shot of Scotch whiskey runs 28-45 HRK, according to brand, and a bottle of local white wine at dinner starts at 180 HRK.  A critical economic measure was the cost of three scoops of ice cream at Slasticarnica Bili San, Nigerova 2, for 22 HRK, about $1.10 a scoop.  I  have also learned that Slasticarnica means "establishment that Grandpa Alan has a hard time passing by."  

Our room in the Cornaro Hotel, Sinjska 6, is very comfortable, with a well-designed bathroom about one-half the size of the bedroom itself.  Most notable is the totally intuitive shower fixture, contrary to contemporary European and Israeli practice of offering plumbing that provides the choice of scalding hot or ice cold water misdirected to random parts of your body or the room in general.  

While we don't have to think about cooking for a while, I found the following New York Times on-line article featuring dishes prepared with few ingredients particularly interesting and worthy of filing for future reference.  

We broke away from the group this afternoon and took a tour with Lea Altarac, a local Jewish woman, who offers an informative walking tour of Jewish interest,  We went to the Jewish cemetery, dating from 1517, high on a hill above the city, now unused and practically inaccessible.

Only a few tombstones were legible, written entirely in Hebrew or Croatian written in Hebrew letters, with one exception for a prominent citizen inscribed in both languages.  Lea then took us to the one synagogue, founded less than a decade before the cemetery, in a building two hundred years older.  There is archaeological evidence of Jews in the area as early as the third century.  Note that many Jews use BCE (before the common era) and CE (common era) instead of BC and AD.  After all, the D of AD ain't our D.

It was our good fortune to meet Lea's father Albert Altarac at the synagogue, a vice president of the small Jewish community, numbering about 100 people.  He explained that, unlike the larger Jewish community in Zagreb, the nation's capital and home to almost one quarter of the total population, Split's Jews are mostly intermarried, as he is, and follow few of the customary rituals and practices.  There is no local rabbi and services are generally held on demand, rather than according to a calendar.  The good news is that Albert claims no local anti-Semitism in a country over 90% Roman Catholic.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016
We did some typical sightseeing today, with periods of heavy rain coming mostly while we were on our bus.  Late in the afternoon, we transferred to the motor yacht Futura, which will be our home base for the next week as we hop town to town, island to island along the Adriatic coast.

The following article, lamenting the decline of Jewish (but not necessarily Kosher) delicatessens in Los Angeles, strikes me as much ado about nothing, although my first hand experience is a few decades old.

Los Angeles delicatessens were never very special, if you had a realistic (New York) frame of reference.  Nate'n Al (sic), 414 North Beverly Drive, remains famous as a Beverly Hills power meeting spot and Canter's419 North Fairfax Avenue, serves as a hangout for an older generation of Jews.  Neither is Kosher, although they may serve some Kosher products.  The only LA delicatessen that I took seriously was Langer's, still at 704 South Alvarado Street, right across the street from the well-sung MacArthur Park.  Langer's, not Kosher of course, had the best seeded rye bread that I have ever had and, as the late, lamented Leo Steiner said, it makes a nice sandwich. 

I found the story behind the following headline somewhat puzzling: "Audience Members Walk Out on Amy Schumer After Trump Criticisms"  Or, maybe too predictable.  What were they thinking?  How about a Hadassah theater party at Jesus Christ, Superstar?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016
We spent the night on the Futura, but it didn't leave the port of Split until late this morning.  Our first stop was Trogir, a tiny island just feet off the mainland.  Its outstanding feature is a cathedral that was constructed mostly in the 13th century. 

Meanwhile,  it is estimated that there are 66 million more men on earth than women.  This seems to contradict common sense: men's lifespans are shorter than women's.  More than their female counterparts, young men die in accidents and by criminal conduct;  old men die from heart attacks and strokes.  However,  the contest does not start on an even footing.  For every 100 female babies born, there are 107 males, as if nature recognizes the harder road for little boys.  Why don't we have more polyandry under these circumstances?  Or are women more reluctant to share the wealth, as it were, while polygamous men are found worldwide, eager to mix and match. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016
The Futura left Trogir even as we ate breakfast, but most of us paid no attention to this because we were absorbed in reading accounts of last night's presidential debate.  This was two out of three debates that I slept through in a foreign country.  By the way, the politics of this crowd of older, white people, prosperous enough to afford this trip, was remarkably consistent and not what you might immediately guess, fortunately for my blood pressure.

It took over three hours and one nap to sail from Trogir to Stari Grad, population 2,500, on the island of Hvar, where we walked through narrow alleys lined by stone houses.  Many of the houses now stand empty as inhabitants have given up on agricultural pursuits after generations growing grapes, olives and lavender.  Tourism seems to be the only viable alternative for many of these scenic Croatian islands and that is limited to the summer, because the centuries-old houses usually lack heating.

The Croatian mainland as well as its 66 populated islands are regularly losing population, along with much of Europe, which makes the failure to deal comprehensively with refugees costly for all involved.

Friday, October 21, 2016
We slept aboard the Futura again last night and sailed around Hvar island to the town of Hvar, population around 4,000.  Of particular interest there was a Franciscan  monastery, now the home of exactly one monk.  He was actually out fishing when we came to visit.

On Hvar's central square, I saw something that had eluded me on this trip so far.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Professional Grade

Sunday, October 9, 2016
I added a fifth Chinese restaurant in the fourth city in the third time zone on the second continent in 15 days last night.  Thanks to the urging of certain vocal members of the third generation, we went to Chinese Mirch, 140 Worcester Road, Framingham, Massachusetts.   We have been to this restaurant that combines Chinese and Indian cuisine before.  It does not present a fusion, but rather parallel processing.

Our ordering leaned to the Indian side of the menu. The bold among us had Hyderabadi chicken ($13.99), a South Asian Muslim dish with chicken cubes cooked in dry coconut, tamarind, and red chillies; crispy Szechuan lamb ($17.99), very crispy and very spicy; and garlic naan ($3.25). Occasionally, we dipped into the milder food on the table, saag paneer ($14.49), chicken tikka ($8.99) and the nicely cooked, but bland chicken malai kabab ($9.99).  Our youth delegation dug into Mirch's food heartily, a good sign for the future.  

Jeffrey Heller, major league human rights activist, writes that he was recently in Williston, North Dakota, county seat of the tenth wealthiest county in the USA, discussed last week.  He tersely describes it as "Ugliest town ever.  Oil boom town. Plopped on the plains."  Note the artistic use of genuine Winchester rifles.

Additionally, Ittai Hershman, superior investigator, informs me that Amorino, Gelato Al Naturale, which I encountered in Paris is spreading throughout Manhattan, with locations now at 414 Amsterdam Avenue (79th/80th Streets), 721 Eighth Avenue (45th/46th Streets), and in Greenwich Village, 60 University Place (10th Street), along with the location at 18th Street and Eighth Avenue that I spotted last week.  Worth a lick.

The New York Times reports on a survey of the politics of the medical profession. 

Once upon a time, doctors, in fear of "socialized medicine," were reliably Republican.  That helped block health insurance reform from Harry Truman's time until LBJ got Medicare passed, now the Saran Wrap of public policy.  Of course, it was almost another half century until we got Obamacare, still the target of resentment by those friendly folks who place their own needs first, foremost and exclusively.

Thursday, October 13, 2016
A public holiday, a Jewish Holy Day and I find myself near the end of the week, contemplating some big doings, which will be explored shortly.

Friday, October 14, 2016
Hey, Mom and Dad, some survey results may encourage you to keep writing those checks to support the education of Jack and Jill.  While there have been many stories about the decline in job opportunities in the legal industry, there are some eye-opening numbers about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

While the report emphasizes the income disparity by gender, the raw numbers may be sufficient to lure someone away from majoring in art history or rural sociology. Consider that the average annual compensation for 2,100 partners at law firms nationwide was $877,000.  Men did much better than women, $949,000 compared to $659,000; whites $876,000, blacks $797,000, Hispanics $956,000, Asian-Pacificans $875,000.  

This article reminds me of the other thing that I miss in retirement -- Chinatown #1 -- the free legal publications that arrived daily, which often contained very granular data on earnings, staffing and related demographics, along with other information about the profession.  

In any case, the data offer some hope that prosperity may yet emerge from parental destitution.  

The Upper West Side's Power Couple is off on an exciting adventure tomorrow, so we thought that we would have a traditional Shabbos dinner tonight.  We headed, therefore, to Bengal Tiger Indian Restaurant, 58 West 56th Street, a narrow joint, up a flight of stairs, with about 15 tables hugging the walls in the shape of an L with a little vertical tail.  

Although it was very busy, service was excellent. Unlike almost every Indian restaurant I have ever patronized, our water glasses were refilled promptly without prompting.  Our food was very good too, the purpose of this visit.  We shared onion and sweet potato pakora ($7), fried but almost greaseless.  I had chicken tikka masala ($15), chunks of white meat in a creamy tomato sauce, tasting as if the chicken had actually cooked in the sauce, not just thrown in on the way out of the kitchen.  My young bride had aloo gobi matar ($14), cauliflower and potatoes.  

Get past the narrow doorway and staircase for good Indian food.

Friday, October 7, 2016

How Do You Get To The Carnegie Deli?

Saturday, October 1, 2016
I'm trying to catch up with my reading after returning to the Holy Land.  One particularly interesting story and graphic deals with wealth in America, specifically where it resides.

When 1% is used as a signifier of elite status, we see that not all 1%s are created equal.  It takes an annual income of $112,000 to reach the top of the heap in Dent County, Missouri, while you have to reach an annual income of $1,067,000 to shine in Williams County, North Dakota, the tenth richest in the country.  Of course, the question arises how do you spend all that money in Williams County, North Dakota?  Well, before you go off on your effete Eastern ways, note that Trip Advisor found 51 restaurants in Williston, the county seat.   Rated best of all was Smiling Moose Rocky Mountain Deli, about 1/4 mile from Sloulin Field International Airport.  

Now, I really don't want to be a spoilsport, but flights in and out of Sloulin Field International Airport only come and go as far as Denver, Colorado and Minneapolis, Minnesota, both currently part of the United States of America.  

Sunday, October 2, 2016
If you are having trouble distinguishing an American from a Frenchman/woman/person, ask to see its passport photograph.  The French are required to appear "neutral with the mouth closed," while Americans may smile.

Monday, October 3, 2016
Welcome 5777.  It seems to have taken you long enough to get here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Joe Berger, CCNY graduate and ace New York Times reporter, published a story today on a new English-Yiddish dictionary, designed to cope with words and phrases that were never uttered in the shtetl, such as, "e-mail."

The editors of this new publication not only documented what contemporary Yiddish speakers were saying, but had to create words and phrases where none existed.  The Vatican faces the same challenge in keeping Latin up-to-date.  See Lexicon Recentis Latinitas, published in 2003.  Sometimes the speakers and the editors diverge.  Joe tells us that "Many Yiddish speakers may already be too comfortable with the word 'laptop' to jump ship for its Yiddish equivalent, 'shoys-komputer' (a 'computer for the lap')."  By the way, if you foolishly don't bother to read Joe's story, e-mail is blitspost, lightening mail.

While on the subject of the often-chosen-for-the-wrong-reason people, the Carnegie Deli has announced that it is shutting down after almost 80 years in business.
When I passed it today, there was a very long line of people risking heartburn although the final date is almost 3 months away. 

In the past, I often frequented the Carnegie, developing a friendly relationship with Herbie, the pudgy floor manager, who granted indulgences sparingly.  That was in the days of Broadway Danny Rose, the 1984 Woody Allen comedy that is narrated at a table at the Carnegie.  I remember introducing Nate Persily, prior to his assuming chairs in constitutional law and political science at Stanford University, to Henny Youngman there, a moment that Nate may still cherish along with his first publication in a law review.  

Yet, I can only recall going to the Carnegie once in the last 20 years, a combination of the rise of kitchiness appealing to tourists and successive jobs for me further removed from its location on Seventh Avenue at 55th Street.  I was also disaffected after the sad death (are there other varieties?) of co-owner Leo Steiner at age 48.  Leo, a very animated guy, starred in commercials for Levy's Jewish rye bread, saying, "It makes a nice sandwich."  In 1987, Leo purchased a swell co-op apartment at the El Dorado, 300 Central Park West, probably the third most prestigious building on the West Side, behind the Dakota and the San Remo.  His apartment abutted the apartment of my boss and we gleefully anticipated developing a warm friendship (with benefits) with Leo.  However, before he moved in, he was admitted to the hospital with headaches, dying there from a brain tumor on December 31, 1987.  

Thursday, October 6, 2016
The Boyz Club boldly ventured into the depths of Brooklyn for dim sum at the well-reputed Pacificana Restaurant, 813 55th Street.  The neighborhood is now called Sunset Park and is considered one of the three Chinatowns in New York City.  The joint is large, supposedly holding 500 people.  While it was almost full when we arrived near 1 PM, it was empty at 2 PM as we lingered, in no hurry to go nowhere in particular. 

The women driving the carts around the room were unable to identify what they were peddling (pedaling?), although they consistently tried to interest us in chicken feet.  We wound up with 10 different dishes, a handful duplicated.  It cost us $14 each, including, as always, a very generous tip.  
Driving back home from Brooklyn, never a wise course of action, I observed an outlet for Amorino, Gelato Al Naturale, at the corner of 18th Street and 8th Avenue, the same outfit that served me black fig gelato in Paris last week.  For better or worse, the crush of traffic prevented me from pulling over for a postprandial treat, but this was a very positive example   of globalization. 

Friday, October 7, 2016
Another episode in "The Invasion of the Grandparents" begins today as we head to Massachusetts to visit the second and third generations.  I hope that they are up to it.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Traveling Man

Saturday, September 24, 2016
Trafalgar Square was packed with people swarming about dozens of colorfully decorated booths and a stage with live entertainment at midday, as I wandered off by myself.  It was Malaysia Fest '16 and, to my great good fortune, most of the booths were serving Malaysian food.  There was a wide assortment of items, some familiar, some not.  All main dishes were £5 for an ample portion.  Wandering booth to booth, I chose roti canai, chicken with sweet soy sauce (no "native" name provided) and beef rendang over rice, patronizing three different booths.  The roti canai, a pancake-crepe with a buttery curry sauce, also had strips of white meat chicken.  The sweet soy sauce chicken was small chunks of fried chicken served with lo mein-like noodles.  The rendang beef in its thick, rich sauce was particularly spicy.  Everything was very good and it was only my fabled self control that stopped me after three booths.  

For the third straight day, London's weather was marvelous, mild temperatures, dry, bright skies.  So, once refueled, I continued my stroll to Covent Garden, the permanent street fair, where the latest in London T-shirts gather, among other memorabilia and tschotckes.  I headed for a stall featuring games and puzzles that I have patronized on almost every prior visit to London, yielding interesting Hanukkah stocking stuffers.

Sunday, September 25, 2016
Although I only muddled through the strict academic demands of Stuyvesant High School, I have been proud of my attendance there. However, I have been uncomfortable for decades by the racial imbalance of the student body in spite of efforts to make the singular admissions test yield more diverse results. On December 26, 2011, I pulled out my 1958 senior yearbook and tallied the photographs of the (all male) graduates by appearance and name: 700 whites, 13 blacks, 5 Hispanics, 3 Chinese and 1 Japanese. This was in response to the then current report of the breakdown of Stuyvesant's recently-entered class of young men and women: 569 Asian-Americans (thought to be mostly Chinese with some Koreans, Japanese and South Asians), 179 whites, 13 Hispanics, and 12 blacks.

While not in direct response to this seemingly intractable issue, the Department of Education has announced a change to the standardized test that governs admission.  An opening sentence was given, followed by 5 random sentences to be arranged to create a coherent paragraph.  I think that eliminating this component, dating only from 1994, is a great mistake.  
Even if we only listened to contemporary political rhetoric, we know that we have to strain to make sense of some explanations of policies and positions.  Personally, I spent more than 13 years reading legal papers, the work product of lawyers aiming to convince the court of the rightness of their clients' claims.  Looking back, I am surprised that I did not carve a deep crater in my scalp from scratching my head in an attempt to understand what counsel was propounding.  Can we at least make an effort that some of our high school students are able to express themselves clearly?

Still in the company of the Brodies, I took the Eurostar from London to Paris, for the first time.  The trip took 2 hours and 15 minutes, only about 20 minutes spent under the English Channel.  It was remarkable in how unremarkable it was.  We left on time; we arrived on time; the ride was smooth; missing was the clackety-clack of normal rail travel.  I checked into a hotel down the block from where the Brodies' maintain what I would call a pied-à-terre, however they say it in Paris.

Monday, September 26, 2016
We went to the Louvre today, sampling only Italian sculptures and Islamic art from its vast holdings.  From there, we continued walking to the Île Saint-Louis, an elegant neighborhood in the middle of the Seine.  It was not real estate that we sought, rather Berthillon, 29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île, possibly the best ice cream maker in the world. Even though my young bride was not at my side, I showed notable restraint and only had three scoops in one cup (6.50€) -- dark chocolate, moka (coffee with whole beans) and Grand Marnier, which I would like to call la crème de la crème if that weren't a silly way to describe ice cream.  Be aware that these scoops were typically European, not healthy Baskin-Robbins sized.  David had one scoop of moka and Katherine appears to continue to operate solely on solar power.  By the time that we arrived back in our Montparnasse  neighborhood, we had walked over 5 miles, so don't bug me about three small scoops.

I went alone to dinner at My Noodles, 129 Montparnasse Boulevard, a popular Chinese restaurant with some hints of Indo-Chinese influence.  It has about 12 two tops inside, some pushed together, and another 4 outside on the sidewalk.  The sliding entrance doors were completely open to the street on this very pleasant evening.  I ordered steamed chicken dumplings (8 for 6.50€) and "Lok Lak beef" (a Cambodian dish with a sauce consisting of soy sauce, oyster sauce, tomato sauce, sugar, fish sauce, ground black pepper and garlic) with red rice (9.80€), rice stir fried with egg and tomato sauce.  It sounds much better than it turned out.

A blessing of the 6 hour time difference between Paris and New York was being fast asleep during the first presidential debate.  However, to fortify myself against the unknown, and in tribute to how every Chinese meal at Wu Han's on Pitkin Avenue in Brooklyn ended in my youth, I went to Amorino, Gelato Al Naturale, 2 Rue de la Gaité, one of a chain that has moved into the UK and the USA.  

Now, before you cast asparagus on me because I had ice cream earlier today, recognize that gelato, the Italian word for ice cream, isn't really ice cream as we know it.  Gelato uses milk, but rarely cream, no egg yolks, and is churned at length, resulting in a very smooth, dense delight.  Also, how could you skip the figues noix (black fig) flavor, which went well with the tiramisu (4.70€)?   

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Went for another long walk, a few miles with the Brodies, a few miles on my own, or kilometers as they say over here.  I wound up in Le Marais, the traditional Jewish quarter of Paris, now interleaving chi-chi boutiques and Kosher falafel shops.  I was drawn to the window of Sacha Finkelsztajn's establishment, where, no doubt, his Yiddish sandwiches are piled high with guilt.

We reunited for dinner at Wadja Restaurant, 10 rue de la Grande Chaumière, a small family-run restaurant, where your choices for the evening's 42, three course dinner are presented on a blackboard.  The food was very good and a liter of more than potable house Chardonnay was 16€.  Drinking was very much in order after watching the rerun of the presidential debate on CNN International, happy drinking that is.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016
David and I visited the Musée du Général Leclerc de Hauteclocque et de la Libération de Paris – Musée Jean Moulin, located atop the Gare Montparnasse (railroad station).  This handful is an attempt to bridge the lingering resentments over military and civilian behavior during the Nazi occupation of France.  Leclerc, an established military commander during WWII, looked very good standing at attention and went on to completely hash France's attempt to maintain colonial dominance in Indochina.  

Moulin, by contrast, was a leader of the underground, making frequent clandestine trips between London and Paris to inform and hear from General de Gaulle directly.  He was betrayed to the Nazis and tortured and murdered by the Gestapo.  Suspicions remain that Moulin was betrayed by conservative elements in the resistance who suspected that he was secretly a Communist.  
Katherine caught up with us and we strolled through the Montparnasse Cemetery, a much more interesting place than I might have imagined, only two blocks from my hotel.   There was a design flair to many of the tombstones and mausoleums.  But, it was the inhabitants that fascinated me, among them Baudelaire, Major Dreyfus, Samuel Beckett, Raymond Aron, Jean Seberg, the sad little actress, and, side by side, Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.  We found it strange that the Sartre/de Beauvoir headstone had half a dozen fresh lipstick kisses.  Huh?

Our last dinner together was at Chez Marcel Restaurant, 7 rue Stanislas, a very popular small restaurant which we couldn't get into the night before.  Its tables are lined up along the walls without interruption; a table had to be pulled out in order to be seated on the inside.  Bathroom breaks were disallowed.  

Its menu, including daily specials, was entirely à la carte, but the bottom line was about the same as Wadja.  I had pâté maison, pressed duck with a potent portion of scalloped potatoes, and a fruit tart in a shell of chopped nuts.   A liter (called a pot) of house wine, Mâcon-Villages this time, was 16€.  An excellent end to a wonderful week with kind and gracious friends.

Thursday, September 29, 2016
I customized my flight home by stopping in a boulangerie (bakery) for some freshly-made sandwiches to eat on the plane.  The flight attendants kept me awash in Diet Coke, so I was content throughout.

Friday, September 30, 2016
I spent a quiet day at the Palazzo di Gotthelf exchanging stories of our travels with America's Favorite Epidemiologist (she, Moscow and Odessa; me, London and Paris) who apparently saw more and ate less in her time away.