Saturday, December 30, 2017

Buon Appetito

Monday, December 25, 2017
The weekend real estate section had a very interesting chart, reflecting the mobility of our population.

"Only 21.7 percent of renters moved in 2017, a historically low rate, according to newly released United States Census Bureau data.  Homeowners moved at an even lower rate — 5.5 percent, a slight uptick from 2016."  You can guess along with me whether an aging population, financial pressure, or a pessimistic outlook is behind this, although the trend goes back at least three decades.  It is also debatable whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, assuming you are not a real estate agent or own a moving van.  Does it reflect a loss of dynamism or a sense of satisfaction? 
. . .

You know about this Jewish Christmas business, going to a Chinese restaurant and the movies to try and retain a bit of identity in an overwhelmingly Christian environment?  Well, it went too far today.  Stony Brook Steve and I went to the AMC Lincoln Square movie theater this morning at 11 AM.  It has 13 screens, usually offering the newest releases.  We were aiming to see The Post, the movie about the Pentagon Papers, later in the day, with wives, and thought it prudent to buy tickets hours in advance.  

As you may be aware, our neighborhood is as densely packed with Jews as Jerusalem.  So, at 11 AM, the 1:15 PM and the 4:15 PM showings of The Post were all sold out and the 7:15 had only seats in the last row on the far wall.  This movie was being shown with reserved seats, a European custom becoming more common around here.  Other movies that interested us, which did not include Star Wars, were also sold out.  You'd think that they were showing a double bill of Exodus and Fiddler on the Roof

Tuesday, December 26, 2017
"Incomes Grew After Past Tax Cuts, but Guess Whose" While this headline doesn't really contain a big secret, the details are intriguing -- more than that, disgusting.

This chart is at the heart of the story and I'm going to let you find out what those two squiggly lines represent.  Mind you, keep away from sharp instruments.
Inline image 1
. . .
I steered our party of four to dinner at Sahib, 104 Lexington Avenue, because of favorable mention in the New York Times.  The room was decorated in soft, neutral colors, unlike the vivid tones often used in an Indian/Pakistani/Bengali restaurant.  Somewhat atypically also, service was accurate and efficient. 

We started with Lasoni Gobi, cauliflower cooked with onions and tomatoes, new to me, but quite delicious.  The carnivores shared lamb Madras, cooked with coconut, curry and dried red chilies; chicken biryani; and, Jhinga Balchau, "Goan Style Shrimp, Vinegar & Jaggery."  Is that something out of Mick's kitchen?  Beats me.  

The beautiful vegetarian at the table had saag paneer, cubed cheese cooked in pureed spinach.  We also had naan, plain and onion, mango chutney and raita.  In conclusion, we agreed with the newspaper review.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017
I lived at 310 East 46th Street for 23 years, otherwise known as Pax Baccalaureate.  While the front entrance of the building is on East 46th Street, my apartment overlooked East 45th Street, where, with the window open, I could smell the steaks cooking at Palm Too, 840 Second Avenue, a few feet in from the corner of Second Avenue and East 45th Street.  I followed the smell into the restaurant regularly over the years, but my relocation to the Upper West Side eliminated the odors and the temptation bred of proximity.
So, I was pleased to meet Eugene S. for lunch at Palm Too today.  It featured a particularly attractive lunch special, 3 courses for $28.  Several choices are offered for each course, including Caesar salad, a small filet mignon and cheese cake, the makings of a great meal.  Believe it or not, I deferred in order to leave room for another meal before the week was over and had the Bozzi Burger (named for one of the restaurant's founding families) covered with aged gouda, smokey barbecue sauce and crispy fried onions ($16).  Of course, French fries accompanied that and I further took up the slack by sharing a piece of a dark chocolate, multi-layer cake with Eugene.  A large glass of pinot noir helped it all go down.
. . .

When I got home from lunch, I saw a message from my brother that almost brought up all that I had just eaten.  It was the headline on a story out of the United Kingdom: "Israel to name new Jerusalem train station after Donald Trump."

The headline writer needs to brush up on his reading comprehension before doing more damage, because reading the story lowers the level of threat to nearly the point of invisibility.  Netanyahu's transport minister, admittedly a powerful member of his cabinet, has made the proposal to name a station on a train line that does not now exist and is unlikely ever to exist, because of the cost and complexity of digging and building in an area fraught with religious, historic, archeological and political obstacles.  You can rest easy and not place Israel in a no-fly zone.  

Thursday, December 28, 2017
Demonstrating our devotion to diversity, the Boyz Club gathered today for lunch, not in Chinatown, not even in a Chinese restaurant, but at Sorbillo, 334 Bowery, the local branch of a famous Neapolitan pizzeria.
While Sorbillo also serves conventional Italian food, we came for pizza.  It serves 15 varieties, some as a calzone or open as pizza.  The pies are individual size, about 12" in diameter, very thin crusts.  Again demonstrating our adherence to diversity and democracy, the six of us shared six pizzas, all different, ranging from Antica Margherita (organic flour, San Marzano tomatoes, Terre Francescane organic EVOO, fresh mozzarella, basil) ($17) to Nduja (Calabrian hot spreadable salami, red onions, Calabrian pecorino, fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil, Terre Francescane organic EVOO) ($22) to Firenze (porcini mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, parsley, garlic, Terre Francescane organic EVOO) ($30).  Every pizza was good, but I'm left with fondest memories of the porcini mushrooms and especially the fresh mozzarella, wherever it appeared.  

Service was very friendly, even as the joint got more crowded with a bunch of millennials, following in the wake of their elders.  By the way, the elders stuck to seltzer, but a casual observer might have thought otherwise. 

Friday, December 29, 2017
Before leaving the subject of food and the whole year of 2017 behind, I have to extol another virtue of America's Favorite Epidemiologist. 
 Can't you smell the freshly-baked challahs?  This was the initial effort by my young bride under the tutelage of our lovely, bright and charming niece Shoshana P.  The result is enough to bring joy right into 2018.  And, we'll need it.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Open Sesame

Monday, December 18, 2017
The New York Times delivered a wonderful holiday gift this weekend, an entire section full of puzzles, involving words, numbers, logic, pictures and trivia.  However, it is available in print only; no digital version exists.  So, I suggest that you rummage around in the trash and go after this collection of puzzles.  At least, they will distract you from the unfathomable mess that has replaced responsible national leadership for us.

. . .

I was happy to stay exactly where I was when I retired in January 2016, and so I plan to remain.  In case you wish to explore alternatives though, here is a handy comparative chart, addressing many of the key variables for your Golden Years, or Descent Into Decrepitude.
It's up to you to decide whether cost of living is/isn't more important than public transportation.  However, before you choose to apply these ratings uncritically, you will have to explain how Phoenix's weather is rated Average, when the average high temperature for June, July, August and September is 100 degrees or more.  Come on.
. . .
I'm sorry.  I'm weak.  I can't resist giving you another top 10 list.  This one seems to be a bit narrowly focused, but it actually presents a very high quality collection: 10 Best Jewish Films of 2017.
Besides the obvious points of origin -- Hollywood, Israel and Brooklyn -- Finland and Hungary also contribute works.  Topping them off even is a hero lifted from the comic books, Wonder Woman, adeptly portrayed by Gal Gadot, a former Miss Israel. 
. . .
Speaking of movies, my top 10 list of 1942, or of World War II, or of the 20th century would include Casablanca.  As an aside, I also consider it a Jewish movie, because of theme, characters (but not actors) and most of the major behind-the-camera personnel.  In any case, my brother directed me to this intriguing story about the movie, how it was shown in Germany after the war.  
The studio surgically extracted Nazis from the film; it even seemed to have extracted World War II from the film.  Quite an accomplishment. 
. . .
I was fortunate to have lunch today with Jeffrey Heller, distinguished fighter for human rights.  It was easy to respect Jeffrey's vegetarianism at La Salle Dumpling Room, 25 West End Avenue, located a few short blocks between us.  We shared cold sesame noodles ($7.95), scallion pancake ($7.95), and steamed vegetable dumplings ($8.50), with an extra potsch of the hot and sweet sauce they usually serve with chicken dumplings.  I suspect that Jeffrey was sufficiently satisfied that he has no reason to start eating meat.  
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
The Rangers are on a tear now, after starting the season in miserable fashion.  I have had the luck of attending games recently where they have really shone.  Tonight, accompanied by Genial Jerry Saltzman, I witnessed another victory on ice.  And, in what is becoming a tradition, we ate dinner first at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 209 West 38th Street.  All good.
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
My elevated mood is destined to come to an end today as I stow our Hanukkah menorah for another year.  The last few days of holiday events and general busyness produced an unplanned abstention from watching MSNBC, interrupting my compulsive wallowing in pessimism and outrage, the leading products of the current administration.  I expect to return to abnormality today.
. . .
I had lunch at Oaxaca Taqueria, 424 Amsterdam Avenue, on that stretch between West 81st Street and West 82nd Street containing half a dozen small, but worthwhile joints.  Oaxaca also operates in more than a dozen locations.  I don’t know about the other sites, but this one is narrow, with 3 rough-hewn tables each seating 6 very close friends or four normal adults, and four stools at the counter where you place your order.  
In common with many fancy, schmancy French restaurants and the humblest Chinese dive, Oaxaca has a very good lunchtime special.  Two tacos, rellenos or enchiladas plus a small salad or an order of rice and beans for $8.95.  I chose the soft tacos, one filled with “Barbacoa,” braised beef tenderloin cooked with pasilla chili, the other filled with “Pollo Guisado,” shredded chicken thighs cooked with guajillo peppers.  Both were topped with pickled red onions, salsa roja, avocado lime salsa, cotija cheese and cilantro.  Along with rice and beans, it made for a very good lunch, where you could almost taste each of the many flavors.

Thursday, December 21, 2017
I have been looking, but I can’t find a Hallmark card to send Viviane T. for getting arrested in the gallery of the House of Representatives for calling Paul Ryan a liar out loud.
. . .
I buckled again and got taken in by another top something list.  This time it is the 100 worst passwords.  You can read about in summary, or download and scrutinize the whole list.
While it is no surprise that “12345” and “password” are disfavored, I am disappointed that “trustno1” can’t be trusted. 

Friday, December 22, 2017
“Passing those tax cuts was as easy as taking health care from a baby.”

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Food or Thought

Monday, December 11, 2017
A new survey rates the supposed best places to work among large US firms, based on data from employees over the past year.,19.htm

You might check if any of your past or present employers made the list.  I crept in at # 99, KPMG f/k/a as Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co., the second largest of the fabled Big 8 accounting firms when I started there in 1980.  But, I want to talk about food, for a change.  The # 4 best place to work is In-N-Out Burger, a very successful fast food chain, concentrated in the West.  Here is a map that illustrates our national devotion to fast food and the popularity of major brands.

By coincidence, when I lived in Los Angeles, In-N-Out Burger was a client of the computer firm that I managed.  Even with that, I ate at one of their places just a very few times, because of geography, not menu.  They were then concentrated east and south of downtown Los Angeles, while I focused on the haute bourgeois environs west and north of downtown Los Angeles.

In-N-Out Burger not only pleases its employees, it is very popular with customers, reportedly including famous chefs, such as Gordon Ramsay, Thomas Keller, Julia Childs, Anthony Bourdain, and Mario Batali.  

Besides food, I also want to talk about politics.  In-N-Out Burger presents a challenge to us pinko, limousine liberals.  While it's a good place to work and a good place to eat, it makes a practice of placing biblical passages on its packaging.  The references are typically in small print in marginal spots, but they usually skip Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.    

Like In-N-Out Burger, Chick-fil-A is mostly unknown in the northeast, although it is the popular choice in almost half the country.  It also places 72nd among the best places to work in the employee survey above, the only other restaurant in the top 100.  It is starting to become a presence in the Holy Land.  There are now three locations in Manhattan, including the New York University student center in Greenwich Village. 

Chick-fil-A came late to many large Northern urban areas because of the reaction to the aggressive opposition to marriage equality by its CEO earlier in this decade, coupled with financial support of like-minded interest groups.  While Chick-fil-A toned down its politics to quell the controversy, it remains associated in many minds with the minority of Americans who voted for the current president.

Head vs. stomach.  What a dilemma.
. . .

I wonder what would happen if we explored the internal policies and politics of some of my favorite Chinese restaurants.  I consciously ignored that issue today when I went to another branch of Xi'an Famous Foods, this one at 37 West 54th Street.  Xi'an started as a kiosk in a shopping mall in Flushing, Queens, the second Chinatown in New York City.  I first came across it at 88 East Broadway, under the Manhattan Bridge, where there was room for one customer at a time (March 7, 2011).  Xi'an has moved on and added a handful of locations, still with small footprints, but able to seat a dozen or more customers. 

The long, narrow space on West 54th Street has ledges on the opposing side walls, with two dozen or so knee-high stools, fully occupied at lunchtime.  I found a space and put down my plate of "Stewed Oxtail Hand-ripped Noodles"  ($12.22).  Since the long, wide noodles were slippery with the spicy sauce, I bent close to the plate, vacuuming up the noodles, trying to keep splashing at a minimum.  Dark colors and washable fabrics are still advised.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Unlike my two previous visits, I was seated immediately today at Tim Ho Wan, 85 Fourth Avenue, spared waiting around for an hour holding an electronic pager to signal the availability of a table.  What was unchanged from those visits was the quality of the food served. 

Eating alone, I chose baked buns with BBQ pork (3 for $4.95), one of the best things a lapsed Jew can eat in all of New York, and steamed rice with chicken and shiitake mushroom ($4.75), plain and simple and good.
Wednesday, December 13, 2107
Happy Birthday to my big brother.  I'll never forget the date, because it is one day after Frank Sinatra's birthday.
. . .

If only Roy Moore had dropped that Jewish lawyer, he might have been elected senator from Alabama.
. . .

I think that I was unwise last week by raising the issue of  top 10 or top 100 lists.  We are inundated with them at this time of year.  I can't be expected to note and comment on this flood, but they are so hard to ignore.  Today, we had "The Most-Read New York Times Stories of 2017" which put us in the driver's seat, not some collection of anemic critics.  

As a daily reader, most of the stories were familiar, but I found that I missed one particularly interesting one: "You Draw It: What Got Better or Worse During Obama’s Presidency."  It appeared almost a year ago and barely made the list at # 97.  It asked questions about the unemployment rate, healthcare spending, and illegal immigration, among other things, in the Obama years, leaving the reader to supply the answers.  It wasn't easy coming close to the facts under the fog of lies and deception now peddled out of Washington.  Try it for yourself.
. . .

I have an excuse for missing one important story: "Blue Frog Chocolates on Magazine St. closing after 17 years."
It appeared in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, not my hometown paper.  That might not be an adequate excuse, because Ann Streiffer, the owner, is a cousin, and a lovely person to boot.  I understand the basis for her decision, but I feel a profound sense of loss.

Thursday, December 14, 2017
In case you find yourself at a loss for words under difficult circumstances, check out some apologies, sincere and otherwise.

These damn year end "best of" lists continue to plague me.  Now, the New York Times has the top 10 new restaurants of 2017:

To its credit, many of the restaurants on this list may be enjoyed without an expense account or a trust fund.  The top spot, however, goes to The Grill, 99 East 52nd Street, taking over the classic space long-occupied by my all-time favorite, the Four Seasons.  I have not been to The Grill and the article gives me a reason to stay away, "the often outlandish prices."  

These places are new to me, representing the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Mexico, Bangladesh and Indonesia.  Now, I have a hit list for the year ahead and you are welcome to accompany me.

Friday, December 15, 2017
The late Duchess of Windsor claimed that you could never be too thin or too rich.  I have never been threatened by either extreme, but I just found a reason to be lured into an excess of wealth.  DaDong has just opened at 1095 Sixth Avenue.  This is its 17th location, the first outside of China, however.  

It specializes in Peking duck, if serving 1,387,000 ducks a year might be considered specialization.  I love a good duck, which often is elusive under a coat of pale yellow fat.  My devotion to the Four Seasons was based on its "Farmhouse Roasted Duck," where the crispy skin was peeled from the meat and scraped free of fat.  Rarely did any Chinese restaurant approach this level care with its Peking duck.  DaDong's reputation seems to promise the results that I savor.

And here's where the economic angle comes into play.  DaDong's New York menu lists a whole Peking duck at $98, a half at $58.  This is at least twice what is charged in Chinatown, with admittedly uneven results.  A better comparison, I think, was the $75 three-course, fixed-price, pre-theater meal at the Four Seasons, including their fabulous duck.  One Peking duck should feed two people, but where are the  other courses, the freshly-baked croissants and the artisanal chocolates that came just before the check?

I have a birthday next year and maybe I will hold my nose and open my wallet to determine if DaDong has da goods.
. . .

I found the appropriate way to celebrate my brother's birthday, taking him to the Ranger game tonight.  The good results helped slow down the aging process for him.
. . .

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Read Any Good Books Lately?

Monday, December 4, 2017
I am nearing the end of my second year in retirement and it has proved successful, so far.  I had two purposes in choosing to retire from a job that was quite satisfactory over all, more time to travel and more time to read, I mean books, instead of the legal briefs and case law that occupied me for over a dozen years.  The travel record has been pretty good.  Last year, I went abroad to London, Tel Aviv, Croatia and London/Paris, while going once to the Bay Area (San Francisco).  This year, I've been to Berlin, London/Tel Aviv, New Orleans and the Bay Area.  

Although I can't precisely tally my reading in the same period, I estimate that I have been reading about two books a week.  So, I was excited to inspect the New York Times list of the 100 notable books of 2017.

I thought that I would be weak in the fiction department, since I focus on crime and spy novels, not usually found at the height of the literary pyramid.  However, I expected that my interest in history, politics, current affairs and strange people would have directed me to some of the year's notable nonfiction works.  Nope.  Except for a couple of books that appeared in shorter form in the New Yorker, I struck out.  I hope that you have a better nose for notable than I do. 
. . .

I'm here to help.  My years as a management consultant taught me to seek practical solutions, and the fuss over the administration's tax plan has whipped me into action.  Since we all know how inefficient government is, I have instituted the Financial Fairness Initiative (FFI) to accomplish the Republican Party's objectives without dealing with red tape and bureaucratic paperwork.

FFI will take money from ordinary people and deliver it directly to rich people, eliminating Washington and waste from the process.  It will spare the current and past Goldman Sachs partners from spending time with their accountants and lawyers devising ways to game the system to maximize their wealth.  All they will need is a paper knife to slit open envelopes. 

While FFI fights for economic justice, it has other concerns.  We are currently conducting a campaign to get Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, to appear on Wheel of Fortune so that he could buy himself a vowel.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Just as I was striking out with the year's notable books, the New Yorker comes along and redeems me somewhat.  This week, it lists its most read stories of the year.
Here I batted over .500, reading a majority of the stories everyone else seemed to be reading.  Were that the case with the notable books, I might rank as a first-class culture vulture.  Instead, I merely follow the decline of American society, delivered to my mailbox every Tuesday.   
. . .

There was some goodish news today, but it had to come from London.  Sadiq Khan, the Islamic terrorist who managed to insinuate himself into the job of London's mayor, has announced a program for "providing more drinking fountains and bottle-filling stations" in London, with the desired byproduct of cutting down on the use of plastic water bottles.  Public water fountains are scarce in London and scarcer throughout the country.

Paris, on the other hand, "boasts a broad array of drinking fountains, including some newer ones that dispense sparkling water, and the older, but imposing, so-called Wallace Fountains created with donations from a British philanthropist, Sir Richard Wallace, in the late 19th century to provide clean water for the poor."  Wallace Fountains provide a delight for the eye, as well as relief for the thirst.  

What rocked me though was mention of public seltzer fountains in Paris.  I remember when Katz's Delicatessen, 205 East Houston Street, site of Meg Ryan's self-induced rapture, had a free seltzer fountain in the back of the restaurant.  Also, a long-gone cafeteria at the southeast corner of Seventh Avenue and West 38th Street, whose name escapes me, had a free seltzer fountain, very popular with taxicab drivers, then more likely to have originated in Minsk than Mumbai.  Will someone promise that America's return to greatness include free seltzer?

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Home Sweet Home

Monday, November 27, 2017
I normally ignore all that hooey about Black Friday and the attendant materialistic mania.  So, in a masterly exercise of self-control, I only bought a new mobile phone and a tablet.
. . .
Lord Kennington, f/k/a David Brodie, in a trans-Atlantic gesture of friendship, sent me this link to a performance by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, taking action while I was just sulking last week.
. . .
Experiments at UCLA and Princeton University support the headline: "Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting."

I recall my own experience while attending law school at the turn of the century.  Many fellow students were typing fiercely on laptop computers and even smaller devices throughout classes.  (Others were playing Solitaire.)  They operated at a speed that I've never approached when recording my own ideas, no less than when transcribing someone else's.

Even if I owned a laptop computer in addition to or instead of the bulky desktop system that I had at the time, I never would have carried it along to class.  Not only did I type slowly, but I found it distracting, occupying my attention.  At the start of each term, I went to Staples and bought an economy pack of 5 spiral notebooks, each with a brightly colored cover, one for each subject for the new semester. 

I did this for several years, even though I really did not need new notebooks, because I found that I only took three or four pages of notes throughout the previous semester in any subject.  There were several reasons for the scarcity of notes, leaving lots of empty space: I am a lousy note taker; I had my hand up to speak more often than not; I was too engaged by the subject to do anything but listen if I wasn't talking.  At the end of law school, I had a lot of notebooks in near mint condition.
. . .
The Sunday real estate section has been a consistent source of interesting lists.  This week, it answered the question "How much do you need to make to buy a home in a major American city?"

Four of the five top spots go to California, the Holy Land coming in fifth.  "Factoring in current home prices, 30-year fixed-mortgage rates and insurance costs (and assuming a 20 percent down payment and industry-standard mortgage-debt-to-earnings ratios), the report arrived at the minimum annual income needed to buy a median-priced home in each area."

The trend is up in almost all the locations,  Median home prices in San Jose, at the top of the list, increased 16.5% to $1.165 million from 2016, requiring an annual income of $216,181.  In Pittsburgh, at the bottom of the list, the median home cost $146,000, an increase of 4.3%, affordable for someone earning $35,205.  Pennsylvania has a minimum wage of $7.25, the same as the federal standard.  Two adults working 40 hours per week at the minimum wage for 50 weeks would gross $29,000. 

Do you see a problem here?  Don't worry, help is on the way.  Deregulation of banks and financial markets, as well as tax reform, will reward honest labor and prudent conduct, making America great again.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Two recent stories illustrate a challenge to assessing foreign regimes in an ethical manner.  In the first, domestic opponents of Vladimir Putin lament the attention paid to his meddling in American politics.  "[I]t reinforces a narrative put forth tirelessly by the state-controlled Russian news media.  On television, in newspapers and on websites, Mr. Putin is portrayed as an ever-victorious master strategist who has led Russia — an economic, military and demographic weakling compared with the United States — from triumph to triumph on the world stage."

The second story describes the rise in nationalism in Iran, stimulated by the hostility shown independently by Saudi Arabia and the United States.  Without judging the underlying validity of foreign attitudes towards the Iranian regime, it's no surprise that anything less than fawning admiration is likely to build fervor for the home team.

The defensiveness shown by Them when hearing criticism from Us is almost universal.  Do we desist, as some of Putin's beleaguered opponents ask?  How much, if at all, should realpolitik influence the expression of our (universal?) values?  Is an honest opinion ultimately only for the benefit of Us, not Them?  Discuss. 
. . .
It was only a few weeks ago that we were enjoying a one-week visit to Berlin.  Adding immeasurably to our experience was meeting Marianne Motherby, a friend of a friend, whom we now cherish as a friend to us.  The only wrinkle in our relationship was her advocacy for the Eisbox, 20/21 Knesebeckstraße, one of the finest ice cream parlors in Germany, just around the corner from her apartment.  The problem was that it closed most days at 6 PM, occasionally daring to stay open until 7, even during daylight savings time. 

To show her how crazy that was, I sent Marianne this message last night: "
I just looked at the hours of 5 leading ice cream shops in Manhattan for Monday, today, end of November.  One closes at 10 PM, one at 10:30 PM, three at 11 PM. That's the way to sell ice cream."  Her sad response came quickly, "and 'my' ice cream shop around the corner has already closed for the season."  She should consider emigrating. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 
Often during the week, Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, the quintessential Chinatown Chinese restaurant, offers a special on soup, won ton with slivers of chicken or pork, won ton in egg drop, egg drop, or hot and sour, $1 small, $2 large.  Their small, by the way, is larger than the tiny small served in London for four times the price. 

Today, the Boyz Club unanimously availed itself of the soup special to start lunch.  Of course, we had fried, crispy noodles to dunk either in the soup or the dishes of hot mustard or duck sauce plopped down with the tea and water without asking.  We then worked our way (too colorless for the elevated mood generated by the food) through shrimp fried rice, pork fried rice, honey crispy chicken, beef chow fun, salt and pepper scallops, and beef with scallions.  Generously tipping, as always, we spent $18 each. 

Not having had enough of Tom Terrific at lunch, I joined him in the evening at the New-York Historical Society for a talk by Lawrence O'Donnell on the 1968 election, the subject of his new book.  O'Donnell had a lot of interesting things to say, much of it dredging up images good and bad from the past. 

He reminded us that treasonous collusion with a foreign government to influence our presidential election is not a 21st century innovation.  Nixon's emissaries were promising the South Vietnamese a better deal if they skipped peace talks before the November 1968 election.  Contemporaneous handwritten notes confirm Nixon's knowledge of these persuasive discussions.  Meanwhile, American military casualties in Vietnam averaged 325 deaths each week of 1968.

Friday, December 1, 2017

I thought the New York Times crossword puzzle tripped up this morning.  12 Down asked where "All in the Family" was set, 7 letters.  Maspeth, for sure, but the unarguably correct letters across didn't allow for it.  I put in what the puzzle wanted and turned to Google, which echoed the fake news.  Still unsatisfied, I sent a message to some of the New Yorkiest New Yorkers that I know, all but one born here, raised outside Manhattan.  Where was 704 Hauser Street, Archie Bunker's fictional address, Glendale, Astoria, Maspeth, Ridgewood, or Corona?  Results so far, Maspeth 2 (including me), Glendale 2, Ridgewood 2 and Tom Terrific, coloring outside the lines, choosing Flushing.

None of us chose Astoria, the dubious answer according to the puzzle and Google.  Actually, the house shown over the credits, 89-70 Cooper Avenue, is in Glendale.  What is still true after 40 years is that the Jeffersons would be the notable exceptions in any of these neighborhoods.
. . .

Stony Brook Steve and I went back to Chinatown to try out Dim Sum VIP, 68 Mott Street, a new joint in space previously occupied by House of Vegetarian.  It has been renovated inside and out, the walls of the long narrow room painted white and left unadorned.  It holds about a dozen tables, two and four tops, less than half of them occupied while we were there.

The paper menu serves as your order when you X the little boxes of your choice.  We had steamed BBQ pork buns (3 for $4.95), "Red Oil Wontons" (6 for 6.95), pot stickers (4 for $4.95), pan fried vegetable buns (4 for $4.25), and baked BBQ pork buns (4 for $4.95).  Everything was very good, cooked to order; outstanding were the Red Oil Wontons in a spicy sesame sauce and the baked BBQ pork buns in a near crispy wrapper.  Service was very enthusiastic, if a little confused.   
. . .

Fight the power. 


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Ryan's Hope

Monday, November 20, 2017
Almost every New Yorker is amazed at how expensive her neighborhood has become, whether resulting from new construction or upgrades to existing properties.  I was surprised though by a survey of where the hot neighborhoods are at present.

The good news is that widely scattered areas of the Holy Land are proving attractive; the bad news is that there are probably few bargains left.
. . . 

I found another real estate story to be particularly interesting, but I can't explain what it all means. 

First, the idea that New York State and Mississippi share the same data point in any regard is startling.  Second, my romantic view of the past had Bubbe or Zayde (the Survivor) on the same premises as Momma and Poppa and Tataleh and Bubbeleh (Jewish Dick and Jane), in contrast to the anomic existence of modern life.  Instead, the movement in recent times has been toward multigenerational households.  "In 1980, 12 percent of the country’s population lived in such households. By 2014, that number had grown to a record 60.6 million, or 19 percent."  

Wednesday, November 22, 2107
America's Loveliest Nephrologist and the Oakland Heartthrob (OH) arrived late last night or maybe early this morning (we were sound asleep) for a Thanksgiving visit, to the delight of both of us.  To begin the celebration, OH and I went to lunch at La Salle Dumpling Room, 25 West End Avenue, notable not only for its convenience, but the quality of its food.  

We shared most of the items that I have been eating on earlier visits, cold sesame noodles ($7.95), 6 pan fried pork dumplings ($8.50), 6 steamed chicken dumplings in spicy sauce ($8.50), and scallion pancake ($7.95).  Everything was good, the scallion pancake exceptionally so, somewhat balancing its high price.  La Salle has a small menu, but what it does, it does quite well.

Thursday, November 23, 2017
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross released their first recording in 1958, "Sing A Song of Basie."  I was blown away when I heard it, probably on Symphony Sid's afternoon show on WEVD, 1130 AM on your dial.   Backed by a simple rhythm section and using multi-track recording, they recreated some of Count Basie's best numbers using their voices instead of the instruments of the band.  

The obituary today of Jon Hendricks, the brilliant lyricist who found the words to fit the music, brought back memories of that early excitement, which continued into other recordings of Basie's music, as well as Duke Ellington's and others.

Hendricks's passing reminds me of another loss.  His work, along with that of hundreds of other musicians, is contained on long playing record albums, stuck in the bottom of our hall closet.  They sit there unused, because I discarded my last turntable some years ago, whether as a result of a move or a paint job or mechanical failure, I can't even remember.  For years, the acquisition of compact discs became the focus of my music collecting and enjoyment.  Sometimes, I bought CDs that duplicated LPs that I owned.  But, not everything in one medium was available in the other and, at other times, I felt that one version was enough.

I never bought Lambert, Hendricks & Ross on compact discs.  Harry Poloner made the helpful suggestion that contemporary music streaming services might fill the gap, but he acknowledged that they usually substitute convenience for sound quality, so, with Symphony Sid gone even longer than my turntable, I'll try to keep their music alive in my head.   

Friday, November 24, 2017
Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul D. Ryan, said in a recent speech that “fixing the business side of our tax code is really all about helping families and workers.”  He also claimed that filling a trench is all about helping the shovels.

No doubt Ryan's concern for the have-less is based on his concern that the gap with the have-more is reaching an unconscionable level.

Do you think the fact that the pattern of our income growth since 1980 most resembles Russia's haunts this son of the Midwest and impels his desire for tax reform?
. . .

Football Scoreboard 
Columbia University      8-2 
New York Jets               4-6
New York Giants           2-9
With the New York Giants making a faint reappearance Sunday, beating Kansas City 12-9, only to lose to Washington last night, 20-10, and the Ivy League football season over, we are closing down the football scoreboard until next year. 
. . .

Other sports, fortunately, continue to provide us some opportunity to experience the thrill of victory.  Accordingly, OH and I went to the Rangers-Redwings game, after having dinner at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 209 West 38th Street.  We both had a pastrami/corned beef combo on rye, of course, and shared an order of French fries, welcoming the Sabbath in appropriate fashion.  We were rewarded with an overtime victory, again demonstrating the power of religion.
. . .

The New York Times reports that "the most extremist voices in the country seem to be moving more into the mainstream," but no, it was only referring to Pakistan.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Week On the Road

Monday, November 13, 2017
The Israeli work week is typically 5 1/2 days, beginning on Sunday and ending midday Friday.  Even in Tel Aviv, a relatively secular city, Friday is pretty quiet and Saturday is dead, commercially that is.  Few restaurants are open, but local beaches and outlying resort areas are busy, and we met heavy traffic returning to Tel Aviv Saturday night.  You could describe it as a city of Jews, but not a Jewish city. 

Physically, I've observed three Tel Avivs.  Most evident are the glitzy high-rise apartment houses.  There must be hundreds of them rising in the last decade, with office towers and hotels nearby.  While the coastline has been a popular target, open spaces to the north and west of the center city have seen the greatest development for these expensive residences, often owned by foreign Jews.  

The more established Tel Aviv consists of over 4,000 International Style, multi-unit buildings constructed between 1930 and 1954 by European architects of Jewish origin, who fled Europe.  They are typically four-story, whitewashed, boxy stucco buildings, with large windows, but no external ornamentation.  While some were torn down over time, most seem to have been extensively renovated or even rebuilt to house an expanding middle class.  

Finally, on Sunday, I became exposed to a third Tel Aviv, the crammed slums and public spaces occupied by about 20,000 refugee adults, predominantly from Eritrea and the Sudan, and their uncounted children.  About an equal number are in other parts of the country.  To escape genocidal conditions, these people move north, either into Egypt or Libya, usually relying on smugglers.  If they get to Libya, they attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, thousands drowning in the process.  If they get to Egypt, they try to cross the Sinai Desert into Israel.  Even though they are mostly Muslim, none Jewish, they view Israel as a safe haven.

Tamara Newman, Director of Resource Development of the Hotline for Refugees and Immigrants, an Australian Jewish immigrant, described the Hotline's work and the conditions addressed, when we met her on Sunday.  

Once, the Israeli government gave these African refugees a welcome reception, seeing a parallel with the plight of European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s.  However, as their numbers grew, they gravitated to South Tel Aviv, next to the central bus station where they were deposited after release from administrative detention.  South Tel Aviv is a neighborhood occupied by poorly-integrated North African Jews, who already felt underserved by the government.  Now, thousands of Africans are either in administrative detention or walking the streets, unable to work legally and subject to detention or deportation, which the Jewish conscience, at least, has been reluctant to carry out.  

Hotline offers vital counseling and legal services, once to Asian and European victims of sex trafficking in Israel, now to these Africans, who are being labeled infiltrators instead of refugees.  Headline in Haaretz, August 31, 2017: "Netanyahu on African 'Infiltrators': We Will Return South Tel Aviv to Israelis"

While we Americans have little to teach the Israelis about handling refugees from tyrannical regimes ever since the Tsar fell, we have one humane policy that they lack.  Children born to refugees in Israel do not achieve Israeli citizenship, but are admitted to public schools.  
. . .

Football Scoreboard
Columbia University        7-2
New York Jets                  4-6
New York Giants              1-8

Tuesday, November 14, 2017
One thing that I love about Tel Aviv is the street names.  Almost every Jew imaginable has a street named after him.  I will resist the temptation of providing an almost endless list of Aronsons and Epsteins and Goldbergs and Kaplans and Rothschilds and Steins, but no Gotthelfs, alas.  Welcome variety is provided by Da Vinci, La Guardia, Lincoln, Rembrandt, and Toscanini.  
. . .

Visiting law professor David walked us around the sprawling campus of Tel Aviv University today, covered with modern buildings for almost every imaginable discipline.  Additionally, Beit Hatfutsot - The Museum of the Jewish People is centrally located on campus.  On our previous visit to the museum 4 years ago, we had just arrived in Israel and were kind of gaga from the flight and time change.  I can recall only about three minutes of that visit.  Today, we were well-rested, alert and relatively energetic, a good thing because the museum had so much to offer.  

Part of the permanent exhibition is a fascinating display of 21 scale models of synagogues from all over, past and present.  Since there never has been a "Jewish architectural style," the exteriors vary greatly and tended to reflect their time and place.  The interiors, however, followed denominational ritual standards, often combined with a decorative veneer that approached psychedelic heights.  

The museum also has four excellent current exhibits:
  • Forever Young -- Bob Dylan at 75
  • Operation Moses -- 30 Years After (the mass movement of Ethiopian Jews to Israel)
  • I’m Ready My Lord – A special performance art display, in memory of Leonard Cohen
  • Capturing History: The Photography of Chim (David Seymour, a Polish Jewish photographer, who recorded everything from the Spanish Civil War to Sophia Loren; killed in the Sinai Desert during the Suez Crisis). 
I'm surprised that I got out of there on the same day.
. . .

I just got the news that Tel Aviv has been named the vegan capital of the world.  Fortunately, this occurred late enough not to ruin my visit.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Annette Crohn, a member of West End Synagogue, recently relocated to Israel to be near her family, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  She also shares a birthday with America's Favorite Epidemiologist, so we made our way to the suburb of Ramat Hasharon for a visit this afternoon, taking buses just like we knew what we were doing.  She has a beautiful two-bedroom apartment, with a drop dead view reaching to Tel Aviv and even beyond to the Mediterranean on very clear days.  In her 90s, Annette swims daily, reads avidly and was eager to hear about our mutual friends on the Upper West Side.  I can't decide who was happier to see whom.  
. . .

Okay, it's what you've been waiting for.  While Israel technically is an Asian country, I don't consider the hummus and shawarma that I've been eating serious Asian food.  So, tonight, we had dinner at Nam - Thai Cook House, Dizengoff Street 275, a real Asian restaurant that lived up to its reputation as one of the best in the city and, by default, the country.  It's a casual joint, which you can say about any restaurant I've seen in Tel Aviv in four visits.  It also got busier as the evening went on, the seats at the bar, the tables on the sidewalk and the dozen or so tables inside all filled up by the time that we were ready to leave.    

The food warranted the activity.  I had chicken egg rolls (29 NIS each or both, the bill was muddled), served with a thick hoisin sauce; and Pad Si U (63 NIS), very wide rice noodles cooked with sweet soy sauce, broccoli, green onion, coriander, spinach, garlic and sliced beef.  Madame had Pad Prik Pao (73 NIS), crispy fish filets cooked with cashew nuts, onion, green onion, dry sweet chili, Thai basil, celery, and carrots.  While the noodles were good, the fish (I poached some) was excellent.  Both were served in very generous portions, not a bad deal at roughly $18 and $21 respectively.  
. . .

My brother just sent me the following article, which so well illustrates the adage that hard cases make bad law.  Actually, I would describe this as a rotten, stinking case.

Thursday, November 16, 2017
The plan was to go to Jerusalem with David and Irit; Phyllis, dear family friend; Nir and Oshrat, cousins several times removed; and Uri, local friend, for an extensive walking tour.  Believe it or not, we all got to the Jaffa Gate to meet our guide Yomi on time, and spent the next 5 hours weaving through the narrow streets and up and down the stairs of the Old City. 

I won't try to repackage the sights, sounds and smells of this fascinating place.  Whatever your belief system (and I would recommend agnosticism), there is so much to experience and learn even after many visits.  I will provide one tip, although it may lead you on a wild goose chase.  A little Arab man, in an alley off an alley of the Christian Quarter, bakes mutabak, a very thin crêpe wrapped around a tablespoon of goat cheese, brushed with olive oil before baking and drizzled with honey.  

If you are lucky enough to find Zalatimo, you won't want to rush off to another destination.   
. . .

Back in Tel Aviv for dinner, we had very good fish and seafood at Shtsupak, Ben Yehuda Street 256.  No, I don't know how to pronounce it.

Having made one gesture towards my Asian food obsession last night, after dinner I stopped at Vaniglia, Yermiyahu Street 23, one of a small chain, to make a dent in my ice cream Jones.  I had two scoops in a cup (21 NIS), Snickers and chocolate chocolate chip, the latter probably replacing Berthillon Glacier, 29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île, 75004 Paris, France, as the all-time best chocolate ice cream in the galaxy.  

Friday, November 17, 2017
Our return flight is near midnight, so I have a chance to look back at some of our better meals.
Yashka - Binyamin, Nahalat Binyamin Street 73 -- Middle Eastern, Kosher, walkup counter.  I had shawarma. One of two branches.
Jeremiah, Dizengoff Street 306 -- Pub/café, non-Kosher.  I had chicken schnitzel sandwich.
Micha's Hummus, Ben Yehuda Street 191 -- Hummus, hummus and more hummus, vegetarian, Kosher.  I had Hummus Mangold (mixed with spinach).
L'aile Ou La Cuisse, Ben Yehuda Street 226 -- Beef and chicken, Kosher.  I had half a roasted chicken.  Translation: The wing or the thigh, named for a 1976 French comedy film.  Sister restaurant at  33 Rue Greuze, 75016 Paris, France, owned by the manager's father-in-law.
The Bakery, Dizengoff Street 262 -- French bakery and café, one of 5 branches.