Friday, December 30, 2016

I Still Have My Appetite

Monday, December 26, 2016
Many American Jews go to Chinese restaurants on Christmas.  There is a new article on the topic and a more analytic older one.   

We did this last year, but were overcome with laziness this year.  We did not turn our back entirely on this modern tradition.  We had Trader Joe's scallion pancakes for dinner last night, a tasty version of this Chinatown staple.  (I recall asking for scallion pancakes in a busy Chinese restaurant in San Francisco about 15 years ago.  The annoyed waitress told me to go to IHOP.)  

Even more than Chinese food, the attention of many American Jews this weekend was on the United Nations Security Council vote Friday condemning Israeli settlements, 14-0-1, the United States abstaining rather than vetoing the resolution.  The Israeli government was furious, along with many American Jews and politicians of all stripes.  I had two arguments on the subject; one, not surprisingly, with a young man who is a senior at an Orthodox yeshiva.  The other disputant, however, was a wise older man, with a thoroughly cosmopolitan view of the world.  His anger at the US position was unexpected.  

I realized that this time, unlike other situations where the UN or other groups have taken shots at Israel while blithely ignoring the more serious crimes of other states near and far, I could imagine myself acting as President Obama did.  There are illegal Jewish settlements on the West Bank, according to the Israeli Supreme Court, not just according to some morally-dubious foreign sources.  “Israel's Supreme Court on Tuesday issued an unprecedented ruling ordering the state to dismantle the largest illegal settlement outpost in the West Bank by April 2012.”  Haaretz, 08/02/11.  “Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that an illegal Israeli settlement outpost in the occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem be demolished by March 2018.”  Ma’an News Agency, 09/02/16.

While the development of Jewish settlements in previously Arab-occupied territory began under the liberal regimes of Peres and Rabin, the Netanyahu government has aggressively fostered their growth seemingly as much a provocation to the local Arabs and the world at large as to satisfy the housing need of Israelis.  Yet, the US vetoed similar resolutions in the past and has been more generous in providing foreign aid to Israel than to any other country.
The result -- more illegal settlements, more efforts to dodge the rulings of the Israeli Supreme Court and more gratuitous insults to Obama.  

I recognize that the UN vote has both manifest and latent implications.  Yet, there comes a time to keep it simple.  I believe, in the words of the resolution, "that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-State solution."  I also firmly believe that the uncertain existence of my friends and family in Israel will be substantially improved by a two-state solution.  Israel is an answer; it should not be a question.

Throughout the year, the New York Times asks "creative people [to] share the 10 titles they would most want with them if they were marooned on a desert island."   Yesterday, it published a brief collection of eight responses for "the books that have stuck with them."

My first reaction was egocentric -- how few of these creative people I recognized.  More generally, I noted the uncontemporary character of their choices.  Only three date from the 20th century, “Love in the Time of Cholera,” Gabriel García Márquez, 1985; “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925; and “The Golden Bowl,” Henry James, 1904.  

Then, I considered the inquiry: books to be stuck with vs. books that stuck.  Not the same thing.  While I might have gotten a big zetz from Tolstoi, Hemingway, Dos Passos, Salinger or Mailer, I would prefer to spend my days chewing palm leaves in the company of Calvin Trillin.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016
In its move from West 38 Street to 128 West 36 Street, Lan Sheng, Szechuan Restaurant, lost its Michelin star.  That did not deter a big crowd, including Michael Ratner and me, from enjoying a very good lunch there today.  We skipped the 49 lunch special items at $8.95, accompanied by choice of soup or spring roll, and white, brown or fried rice, and picked from the full menu.  Mind you, there were many fine choices among the lunch specials, but we headed for the camphor tea smoked duck ($18.95 half), tangerine beef ($16.95) and house special fried rice ($11.95) and landed successfully.  The duck was really special, a large portion, very little fat.  

One choice that sounded more special than it turned out to be was the fish maw chowder soup ($13.95).  It contained shrimp and crab meat along with something squishy that might have been the fish maw.  A quick look later on the Internet showed that fish maw is "the dried swim bladders of large fish."  This must be exotic enough to arrive at the high price for two small bowls of soup, but I suggest that you stick with something more mundane.

Lan Sheng is medium sized, pleasantly decorated, although 5 crystal chandeliers are a few too many.  It is located in the middle of the garment center, surrounded by stores selling bright fabrics, zippers, buttons and bows.  It doesn't just try to be a "nice" restaurant, however.  The menu offers duck and ox tongue, pig brains, pig ears, and (watch out) tofu.  It's pricey, but the location and white tablecloths account for some of this.  In all, Lan Sheng is one of the best choices above Canal Street.    

December 28, 2016
In case you are not tired of being reminded of how different "us" and "them" are, the New York Times has interesting graphics illustrating the divide.    
I accept the idea generally of looking for cultural signifiers, although the pattern of my television viewing, centering on sports and foreign crime shows, falls off the bell curve.  

Thursday, December 29, 2016
The Boyz Club convened for the last time this year at Shanghai Asian Manor, 21 Mott Street.  For some standard items in the Chinatown repertoire, SAM can't be beat.  Its scallion pancakes, soup buns and cold sesame noodles are all top rank.  We started with this trio to everyone's delight.  We then found room for tangerine beef, sliced chicken with eggplant in garlic sauce, and salt and pepper fried shrimp.  The shrimp were peeled and deep fried, rather than broiled in the shell, the more typical version of this dish.  All went down very, very well, accompanied by conversation that focused mostly on old movies, not new politics.  

We also discussed 2016 -- Love it or leave it.  We were not entirely overtaken by the ill-feelings about current events that we limousine liberals (feeling more like subway socialists) harbor.  My personal position is somewhat counter-pollyannaish; I expect so much merde in 2017 that I want 2016 to stay with us as long as possible.  Of course, some of the merde has already arrived.

Total cost for lunch came to $16 per person, more than reasonable considering the quality of the food and the time we spent sheltered from the rain.

Friday, December 30, 2016
Seems like a few Russians are more powerful than 65,844,954 Americans.

For a moment, let's ignore the nutsyness and craziness of this past year and conclude with a surprisingly easy and delicious recipe.  Withhold your skeptical reaction to its key ingredient.  Last week, I had this for the first time, thanks to the lovely and talented Shoshana P., and I urge you to try it.  It's really good.  Note that this is strictly for carnivores.

The name of the dish originated with a style of food preparation at the Restaurang Hasselbacken, Hazeliusbacken 20, Stockholm, Sweden, but you don't have to go that far to end this difficult year on a delicious note.  

Friday, December 23, 2016

Black and White

Monday, December 19, 2016
It's the holiday season and, realistically, what I might wish for will not come to pass.  However, the New York Times gave its reader a good gift this weekend, a 16-page section devoted entirely to puzzles, the first time that it has ever done this.  The centerpiece of this effort is a two-full-page crossword puzzle with 637 clues (yes, 637), which take so much space that they are printed separately on another page.  There is also a variety of word, number and visual puzzles, which, with any luck, will keep me distracted for the next four years.

Stephen P. Cohen has published The Go-Between: Memoir of A Mideast Intermediary, a title that fairly represents his heroic efforts to bring reason, if not peace, to the Middle East.  It's a slim volume of anecdotes describing some of his almost countless meetings with Anwar Sadat, Shimon Peres, Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin,  Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and so many of their emissaries, building trust and forging lines of communication between Arabs and Israelis.  The book is available through Amazon.

Mary McCarthy was a successful novelist (The GroupThe Groves of Academe) and critic; Lillian Hellman was a successful playwright (Toys in the AtticThe Little Foxes) and screenwriter.   Both had been supporters of the Communist Party USA in the 1930s.  McCarthy eventually turned away from Stalin and toward Trotsky, dividing the women for most of the rest of their lives.  Famously, in a 1979 television interview, McCarthy said of Hellman that "every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'."  

I think that McCarthy somewhat overstated the case against Hellman, who certainly ignored the uglier implications of her politics at times, but we have a guy today who comes close to a perfect fit for McCarthy's description.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Joe Berger, distinguished alumnus of CCNY and the New York Times,  published The Pious Ones in 2014, examining the growing presence of Hasidism in the American Jewish community.  Today, I heard him speak on the subject at a local synagogue, where I was joined by Mossad Moshe, Stony Brook Steve and the Goldfarbs, constituting Chapter 7 of the Joe Berger Fan Club.

Hasidism started almost 300 years ago in response to the formality and intellectuality that then characterized Judaism in Eastern Europe.  Hasids believe that there can be or should be a spiritual dimension in even everyday activities.  Appearing austere to outsiders, Jewish and gentile alike, Hasidic worship and rituals are rich with song and dance, but restricted to men alone.  Women are also kept at a distance in many ordinary situations out of fear of their menstrual "uncleanliness" or the seductive power of their presence.

I learned that the scattered handful of European Hasidim who came to the US after WWII have bred a population here estimated to be about 300,000, in 30 major clusters. Comenetz_Hasidic_Pop2006.pdf is a detailed demographic study of Hasidic Jews in the US, although 10 years old.  The largest group are the Satmars, very reclusive and rabidly anti-Zionist, believing that you can't have Israel without the Messiah (and they don't mean Handel).  The Satmars originated in 1905 in Satu Mare, Transylvania, from which they derive their name.  I chuckled for a while when Joe told us that Satu Mare means Saint Mary.
Opposed to birth control, Hasidic families often include 10 or more children, not bad for couples who might spend only minutes in each other's company (with their parents present) before marriage.  

The "success" of Hasidism poses a challenge to me and probably many other American Jews with more relaxed levels of observance.  While I want to see Judaism propagated into the future, I don't want it to be a Judaism that never progressed into the Enlightenment and beyond.  But, what have I contributed to my side?

Thursday, December 22, 2106
I went for my annual physical examination today.  My doctor, pressed for time, borrowed from another historic medical evaluation and concluded that my "laboratory test results were astonishingly excellent . . . [and my] physical strength and stamina are extraordinary."

Friday, December 23, 2016
Looking back on this week, I saw that I ignored the critical issue of food, not in practice (I didn't miss a meal), but in this narrative.  Accordingly, I sought out a new place today, Radiance Tea House & Books, 158 West 55th Street.  This Japanese restaurant takes at least part of its name very seriously, offering 80 different hot teas, starting at $7 for a one-person pot of a relatively familiar variety and climbing.   Tea pots, tea sets, and tea canisters are attractively displayed on many walls.  The book section also seems to be arranged for visual effect, with most of the works dealing with tea, food, travel and Falun Gong, the controversial Chinese sect.

The food was very good.  I had hot and sour seafood soup, ($9), exactly and excellently fitting its name.  Then followed a spicy chicken noodle box ($13.95), including two chicken gyoza (dumplings) and edamame (those short, fat peapods).  The largish portion of noodles was very good, and spicy as claimed.    

Walking back and forth to Radiance, I passed the corner of Seventh Avenue & West 55th Street, where the Carnegie Deli is located.  Whether the holiday season, the mild weather, or its announced closing on December 31st, the crowd waiting to get in at 1 PM stretched halfway down the block.  Appearances (and accents and demeanors) may be deceiving, but I think that most people on that line were not from around here.

Friday, December 16, 2016

What's In A Name?

Monday, December 12, 2016
An article in the Sunday business section of the New York Times evoked the following never-to-be-published letter to the editor: "You quote Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for the NRA’s lobbying arm, saying, 'The gun control lobby made this election a referendum on gun control, and they lost because the majority of Americans support the Second Amendment and they vote to protect their constitutional right to self-protection.'  Are Ms. Baker and the president-elect the only two Americans that think that 62,851,436 is a larger number than 65,527,625?"

It was just for a moment last night when I walked through the trashy remains of Pennsylvania Station, on the way to the Rangers game at Madison Square Garden.  Besides others headed in my direction and the normal weekend travelers coming in and out of New York City, the crowd was swelled by many people taking the train to the Giants football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  Descending an escalator parallel to the one on which I was ascending, I saw ten tuba players in a row, with their shiny instruments.  I couldn't manage to turn around and question their purpose and destination, but just the sight of ten tuba players riding an escalator elevated my mood.  It's not high yet, but it improved.

It's Frank Sinatra's 101st birthday and we are celebrating over bagels and lox with David and Kathleen Mervin, who have come from metropolitan Arnside, Cumbria, UK (pop. 2,334) to visit the Brooklyn wing of their family.  I've known them since graduate school days, attended their wedding (at the home of the president of the University of New Hampshire a/k/a Kathleen's father) and their 50th wedding anniversary celebration in Arnside.  

While bagels and lox are not entirely unknown in northwest England, at least by reputation, we had the pleasure of introducing the Mervins to bialys and rugelach.  This might not be life changing for them, but it should encourage them to return here early and often.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Today is my brother's 80th birthday and, to honor the event, we are going to the second Rangers game in three days, Sunday having been a triumph of virtue.  However, by the end of this evening, our celebration was somewhat dampened by a Ranger loss in a very tightly played game.  But, for the first time ever, I caught one of those T-shirts that they shoot into the stands at Madison Square Garden.  It became his final birthday gift. is a convenient way to make restaurant reservations or merely identify restaurants in a neighborhood.  It has its flaws; see its attempt to seat us in and then measure our satisfaction with a closed establishment (  

I generally pay little attention to its ratings, but it is interesting to see its "best of" list.

Sad to say, but the following states failed to place any joint on the list: Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.  They also constitute the heart of the president-elect's electoral majority.  

13 of Open Table's top 100 are in New York State; 8 of the 13 actually in the Holy Land.  By good coincidence, we, in the company of the Spars, enjoyed an evening at the honored Trattoria L'Incontro, 21-76 31st Street, Astoria, on Sunday, December 4th, as I reported last week. The other good news is that several of the 8 local restaurants do not impose a 37-course meal of microscopic portions upon you.  Where this is the case, do not expect an appearance by Grandpa Alan.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2106
Speaking of food, today's New York Times is full of its own "best of" lists -- top 10 dishes, top restaurants, "Top 10 Cheap (and Astonishing) Places to Eat" -- respectively.

These places are all in the Holy Land, with the outer boroughs (except Staten Island, the only place where the president-elect led in the popular vote) showing a strong presence.  Only 2 of the "cheap" places are in Manhattan and 4 of the 10 "best" are in Brooklyn.  This movement outward corresponds  to the heat of the real estate market in Manhattan, which is also inflaming parts of Brooklyn and Queens.  

I must confess that, for all my essing and fressing, I've seen the inside of only a   few of the places cited.  On the other hand, it gives me something to live for.

Compiled by J. Hoberman, a very well-regarded film critic, this list was hardly helpful.  One of the 10 was a book, not a movie; several are far from contemporary, one dates from 1970; and, most of them are pretty obscure.  Since Jews have always had an important role in the (American) film industry, you would think that Hoberman could give us some better food for thought, produce a meatier list, something more to chew on.  

Thursday, December 15, 2015
I believe that misogyny played a key role in the recent presidential election (can you remember that far back?).   With any luck, we should be able to test this view (and bury it) four years from now.  

Friday, December 16, 2016
David Friedman is a sweet guy, an accomplished information technology professional, a talented musician and composer, and a selfless volunteer in many of our anarchic synagogue's endeavors.  But, he is not that David Friedman, next US Ambassador to Israel, who seems devoted to heightening tensions and breeding antagonisms.  Last year, for instance, he criticized "the blatant anti-Semitism emanating from our President," Obama that is, the one who got the most votes.  

Believe it or not, "artificial, clichéd, mawkish, preposterous, incompetent, sexist, laughable, insulting" was not a description of the president-elect, but, rather, part of a review of the movie "Collateral Beauty," released today.  Enjoy.

I have avoided writing the name of the president-elect for many weeks, possibly a foolish effort to deny reality, something I may have learned from him.  But, I know that I have to get with it, bite the bullet, bell the cat, keep a stiff upper lip, face the music, grin and bear it, take my medicine, make hay while the sun shines, pay the piper and get down to brass tacks.  So, I will now refer to President Oscar Wilde, who was, after all, involved in the "love that dare not speak its name," although not the author of the phrase.  It's certainly not love that inspires me, rather a modest attempt to avoid triggering panic attacks, temper tantrums or fits of depression at the sound of the inconceivable.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Save The Children

Monday, December 4, 2016
Yes, it's true.  I voted two-and-a-half million times.

This excellent article discusses the parallel retreat into nationalist cocoons in Britain and the US.

Many people, commentators and clergy for instance, are calling for us in the popular majority to listen to the popular minority a/k/a the electoral majority, respect their concerns and find common ground.  To which I say "horse feathers."  While grievances may be found in any population segment, the other side seems to be prone to exercises of the imagination that leave little room or inclination for bargaining.  Example "Pizzagate."  [When I wrote this on Monday, this subject was hardly known to most of us who are able to walk and chew gum at the same time.  However, by Tuesday, the tortuous thinking that animates some of the minority of voters who chose our next president had produced one known criminal act that made it to the front page of the New York Times - - and a host of threats.]  

As if pizza and pedaphilia weren't enough for some of our fellow citizens, here is another headline: "What Is Pizzagate Telling Us About Wikileaks, the CIA, the Illuminati, and the New World Order?"  (If you want to read the article, I'll send you the link upon receipt of a self-addressed envelope and a new £5 note, the plastic one with the embedded tallow, offensive to Hindus and vegetarians alike.)

Speaking of vegetarians, I am told that the beet salad and tagliatelle with cherry tomatoes and breadcrumbs at Trattoria L'Incontro, 21-76 31st Street, Astoria, were particularly delicious last night, even as I consumed the baked clams and lasagna.  Although we (Art and Shelly Spar joined the Upper West Side's Power Couple) all delighted in our choices, the food was almost upstaged by our Ecuadorian waiter's 5-minute recital of the day's specials.  You might just order a drink, hear the performance and go home.  Whether for a long or a short visit, put L'Incontro on your hit list for excellent Italian food; reservations needed.  Driving to get there is easy, so you don't need me to tell you.  Else, one block past the last stop of the N train (Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard); catch it at Times Square.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Rudi, my favorite Latvian, has come through again.  Feeling my pain at having my jury duty, and the attendant opportunity to lunch in Chinatown day after day, so abruptly ended, he forwarded this classic episode of "The Odd Couple," where Felix and Oscar first meet as jurors in New York Supreme Court.  

As further balm to my soul, Michael Ratner asked me to go to Chinatown with him for lunch today, an offer I couldn't refuse.  We headed to Oriental Garden, 14 Elizabeth Street, a restaurant that often sits at the top of best Chinese lists, and gets favorably reviewed in the Michelin guide.  However, I have never warmed up to it and averaged one visit every three years.  Today, at lunchtime, when it focuses on dim sum ordered from an illustrated menu, only 4 of the 16 tables (holding 4 to 8 people) were occupied.  Although the staff were personable and efficient, the atmosphere wavered between dull and low-key.

The food mostly can't be faulted.  We had a small plate of roast duck ($11.95), chicken sticks (3 skewers for $5.95), seafood dumplings, chicken shu mei and fried shrimp won tons ($4 each plate).  I could have used a little more duck, with a little less fat, but the other dishes tasted very good and were worth the price.  Dinner is probably much different at Oriental Garden, with its reputation drawing big crowds, I imagine.   Still, it might be three more years before I return, given all the alternatives in Chinatown.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016
75 years and the date still lives in infamy, as FDR declared in a speech to a joint session of Congress the next day.  I wonder how long it might be before we apply a similar label to November 8, 2016.

There has been a Thai restaurant on the corner of Baxter Street and Bayard Street, directly across from the Tombs, the jail connected to the criminal courthouse, for forty years or so.  It was identified as Pongsri Thai Restaurant, 106 Baxter Street, until it underwent a complete renovation this year and was renamed Thai Jasmine Restaurant.  Stony Brook Steve and I went to lunch there today, part of my relieve- the-grief tour after being cut off from jury duty so abruptly last week.  

The new interior is neat and clean, not particularly Asian.  While it always was and remains crowded at lunchtime, the restaurant was not especially noisy and did not feel claustrophobic.  The food was very good. I started with Roti with Masaman Curry ($5), a cup of spicy curry containing two pieces of potato and some small slices of chicken, with an Indian pancake to dip.  Then I had Pad See Ew ($9), their version of beef chow fun.  At dinner time, the price of most of the main courses goes up $2 or $3; look for the "Lunch Specials" at the back of the menu.  My quibbles -- no chopsticks and tea only by teabags  

Thursday, December 8, 2016
Attention adults!  The New York City Transit Museum gift shop in Grand Central Terminal has a wonderful, compact model train setup that squeezes city and country landscapes together, even including an elevated subway line.  The display is small, but very carefully designed and constructed, and will be running until the end of February.  

Since you don't have to rush out of the house to see the trains, you should spend some time with  
This is a veritable Hit Parade of Chinese cooking, including several vegetable dishes and only a few in which pork and/or shrimp are so intrinsic that the Kosher cook would have to pass.  Of course, I am available, with proper notice, for food tasting.
I just learned that Don Elliott, a great friend, died two weeks ago in Park City, Utah, where he continued to ski aggressively into his late 70s.  While both of us were Brooklyn boys, we had substantial stylistic and philosophic differences.  Yet, we worked together almost seamlessly and developed great respect and then affection for each other.  I was fortunate to know him.

Friday, December 9, 2016
27 Down - Home security measure.  4 letters, starts with L.

This morning, I got one of those annoying telephone calls from a man allegedly from the "Technical Department."   When I began to discuss the meaning of "scam" with him, he hung up.  My telephone displayed his number with an area code of 648.  I thought, possibly naively, that area codes were unique, one vast chain of numbers circling the world.  Asking Google about area code 648, I learned that it is found in Fuga, Sudan, Camargo, La Cruz and San Francisco de Conchos, Mexico, and Dormaa Ahenkro, Ghana.  Had I known this at the start of the conversation, I would have skipped scams and asked instead for restaurant recommendations for wherever he was.

I am considering demanding a recount of the poll that ranked Stuyvesant High School only third in the nation among high schools.  However, I was initially startled to learn that 47.3% of its students live below the poverty line, none of its nearest competitors even close (#1 and #2 have poverty rates of 2.2% and 0%).  Upon reflection, it became more obvious that the current Stuyvesant student body, a majority the children of Chinese immigrants or immigrants themselves, are still a few steps away from living a comfortable, middle-class existence, although it is inevitable that most will, as did their predecessors, with advanced degrees from first-class institutions.  Arguably, their parents are no better off than the prototypical, disgruntled, opportunity-has-passed-me-by DT voter, but the former spend much of their time urging their children to better themselves instead of reading Tweets.  

Friday, December 2, 2016

Deli, No Delhi

Monday, November 28, 2016
In case you just came on board, allow me to tell you that my first "real" job was as a computer programmer in 1969.  In the years that followed until I left the field in 1999 to go to law school, I saw an amazing amount of change and innovation.  Therefore, my resistance to driverless cars is not some simple reaction to change, but rather a concern for the overselling of and overconfidence in technology that may not meet the challenge of protecting human lives. 

Here is my anecdote du jour in this regard.  Blessed by the company of America's Loveliest Nephrologist, we decided to go to an Indian restaurant on Sunday evening, specifically Dhaba, 108 Lexington Avenue, a favorite.  Since it gets particularly busy on Sunday evenings, I used Open Table, the handy restaurant reservation web site.  It gave me a choice of a table for three at 6 PM or 8:30 PM and later.  I chose 6 PM and received an acknowledgment: Your Reservation Confirmation for Dhaba.  However, Dhaba was dark when we arrived, with a sign announcing that it was closed for renovations.  Get that. The computer was very deliberate in restricting the choice of reservation times, even though we couldn't get in at any time.  It gets better.  Today, this message came from Open Table: Congrats! You just earned 1,000 points.  Because of not being able to get into Dhaba last night at 6 PM. 

I got up this morning feeling like it was the first day of school.  I have to report to jury duty.  It's been about 10 years since I was last called and then was almost immediately dismissed by the judge who did not want to run the risk of being overridden in private by a punk lawyer.  In fact, I was one of several lawyers summarily dismissed.  While a return to the legal world accounts for part of my excitement, the prospect of daily lunches in Chinatown is certainly a stimulant.  I might be tempted to prolong deliberations so that access to this magical kingdom will be convenient and efficient.

For my lunch today I chose Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, as if I were visiting the area for the first time to get classic Chinatown Chinese food served in large portions at modest prices.  It's hard to say low prices about anything these days, but Wo Hop certainly stands out on a price/performance basis.  I had beef and shrimp chow fun, delicious at $8.95.  Looking back, I found that on January 26, 2011, a year into this (ad)venture, I first recorded the price of chow fun at Wo Hop at $7.60, which at a 3% rate of inflation brings us to the current price.  I am not sure why it took me a whole year to start reporting prices or why I didn't from the start.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Recognizing the increasing diversity of the American population, the supporters of the president-elect are being offered the choice of black or brown shirts.

Calvin Trillin has joined the discussion on the scariest word originated by this article.  He suggests "Upgrade," which promises a traumatic period at the hands of a computer geek.  

Yesterday afternoon, the judge told us that the trial might run through the end of next week.  I was delighted with this news and started menu planning for the next 10 days, alternating old favorites and new joints that have popped up in Chinatown since I retired.  This morning, I was temporarily relieved to find the courtroom door locked and everyone sitting in the hall even though I arrived almost 20 minutes late.  "The judge is late," someone said, but, as we sat longer and longer, I became worried.  The judge was probably working over the lawyers to find a way to avoid a trial, an expensive, messy affair for all concerned, except a retired attorney who wanted to spend time in Chinatown.  Just as I feared, the defendant accused of selling heroin copped a plea and all the prospective jurors were dismissed, insulated against being called back to jury duty for 6 years.  What a wretched fate.  

The day was partially redeemed by going to the winning Rangers game in the evening with Jerry Saltzman, a fine gentleman.  We ate at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 209 West 38th Street, before the game.  Putting aside temporarily my fastidious concern for preserving my figure, I ordered a can of Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Tonic, at 140 calories, the ideal beverage to accompany corned beef, pastrami, brisket or, at least, to pay tribute to your ancestors.  After all, popular brand beers typically have 150 calories, 100 calories for a "light" beer.  

Open Table completed its trinity of errors by asking me today How was Dhaba?  If I were in a driverless car, I think I would just have jumped a curb.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016
I have admitted several times that I am ethnocentric, a bit hyper when my tribe is demeaned, put on the defensive or outright injured.  But, there are some incidents that rise (or descend) to a unique level of insanity as exemplified by this clip from a Russian ice show.  Note that the woman is reportedly the wife of Vladimir Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

A new report, "The Leaky Pipeline for Women Entering the Legal Profession," offers some very interesting statistics about women and law school.  While women are about half of the current law student population, a smaller percentage of women college graduates apply to law school than men; they are less frequently admitted; they tend to enroll at lower ranked law schools.  This eventually seems to account for disparities in hiring and advancement between men and women lawyers.  The report overlooks marital status, a key element in career choices for some women, I believe.  Right now, many American wives willingly or not, more often than not, operate in the wake of their husband's career plans and aspirations.  That may curb their geographic options and limit the quality of their academic choices.  Whether coincidence or not, the recognized elite law schools are concentrated in a few cities and the benefits of attendance thereat may be lost to the wife of a sheepherder.

Put aside political considerations for a moment as you read the following story.   You'd have to go back many presidents to find one demonstrating the basic humanity of Barack Obama, even as we prepare to place him in the rear view mirror. 

Han Dynasty, 215 West 85th Street, is the biggest Chinese restaurant that I can think of, dim sum palaces aside.  It may also be the most attractive, sitting in a high-ceilinged space that must have once been a ballroom.  Only a few tables were occupied there as I enjoyed the company of Margie Schorr and the very spicy food that we shared at lunch. 

We had a large portion of dan dan noodles ($8.95), with the pepper flakes giving an obvious kick to the lo mein-like noodles.  We continued with 2 lunch specials in common, garlic sauce chicken ($9.95) and dry pepper fish ($11.95).  The chicken was undistinguished, but the fried fish fillets were spicy hot and kept us reaching for the hot tea and cold water.  The restaurant is part of a small chain, originating in Philadelphia, with another branch in the East Village.  Its URL is distinctive, but somewhat offputting.

Thursday, December 1, 2016
I joined Stanley and Fumiko Feingold and a handful of other superannuated CCNY graduates for dinner at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 209 West 38th Street, just 48 hours after my last visit.  I would not suggest another venue, since the Feingolds now spent their days where one is more likely to meet a Trump voter than a potato knish.  Offering them a good pastrami sandwich might be viewed as the Jewish equivalent of the communion wafer.  

Friday, December 2, 2016
87-year old David Goldfarb was not offended by my suggestion that we have lunch at Old John's Luncheonette, 148 West 67th Street, even though he has a few generations on it.  David is always friendly and stimulating company, while I might be viewed as much more the latter than the former.