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.

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