Saturday, October 14, 2017

Do the Right Thing

Monday, October 9, 2017
It's hard to be (racially) colorblind in American society, maybe impossible.  At times, I admit to being impatient with or exhausted by the racial prism that either distorts or clarifies our view of reality.  Since I am on one side of our racial divide, that occasionally puts me at odds with the other, no matter how I might strive to be fair, open and tolerant.  Anecdotal evidence of racial discrimination sometimes evokes mixed feelings -- there they go again (black squawkers) vs. there they go again (white bigots).  

A new study restores my perspective, at least for a time.  Based on 20,000 e-mails, the rate of response to routine inquiries to government offices by typically white-named people is consistently higher than for black-named people.  

Taking the trouble to discriminate in responding to an e-mail inquiry is gratuitously cruel especially under the most benign conditions.  "Justice, justice, you shall pursue."  Deuteronomy 16:18
. . .


This week's football report
Columbia University          4-0 
New York Jets                    3-2
New York Giants                0-5
. . .

In a 1839 United States Senate debate, Henry Clay famously said “I had rather be right than president.”  Currently, we have the complete opposite.  

Tuesday, October 10, 2017
In a strange way, I think that it is kind of romantic that a divorcing couple would go to court over possession of ice hockey season tickets.  There is love there, although maybe misdirected.      http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/divorced-edmonton-couple-faces-off-custody-oilers-tickets/
. . .

Scott Pruitt, the Administrator of the Environmental Destruction Agency, announced that "the war on coal is over."  Okay, now I can concentrate on the war on Christmas.
. . .

It probably took a formidable public relations effort to get this laudatory article about Acme Smoked Fish's whitefish salad.

While the production process is interesting, I cannot endorse Acme's result.  It supposedly contains only whitefish and mayonnaise, but it is mushed to such a degree that it emerges as a salty paste.  Fairway Market, 2131 Broadway, is at the pinnacle of the whitefish salad world and should be your destination for this delicacy.  

Wednesday, October 11, 2017
A play daringly entitled Junk is in previews at Lincoln Center.  We went to see it last night with the Goldfarbs; the Weinsteins were unable to join us.
. . .

The MacArthur Foundation announced its "genius" grants today, $625,000 fellowships.  I understand that the president removed his name from consideration because he did not need the money.
. . .

It was undoubtedly a spiritual quest that brought many of you to my modest exertions.  Holy Writ is an essential component in the perpetual search for truth, beauty and justice and I am pleased to refer you to a new bible -- The Macaroon Bible by Dan Cohen a/k/a Danny Macaroons, who, unlike many others, left Great Neck when he left Great Neck.   https://www.amazon.com/Macaroon-Bible-Dan-Cohen/dp/1118472160?utm_source=danny+macaroons+email+of+awesome&utm_campaign=cf7baa16bc-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_10_11&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_030488f6d3-cf7baa16bc-296904953&mc_cid=cf7baa16bc&mc_eid=bb19b3f5f5#immersive-view_1507731909660

Thursday, October 12, 2017
America's Favorite Epidemiologist abandoned me today, leaving me to my own devices and the Ciao Bella blood orange sorbetto in the freezer.  I hope that America's Loveliest Nephrologist and the Oakland Heartthrob appreciate what they are getting, if only for a few days. 

Friday, October 13, 2017
This link shows an amazing sample of the devastation caused by the California wildfires.   https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/12/us/santa-rosa-california-fires-damage.html
. . .

I was fortunate that Gil Glotzer, retired attorney to the stars, was able to meet me for lunch on his quick visit to the Holy Land.  We ate at La-Salle Dumpling Room, 25 West End Avenue, a joint that is continuing to satisfy.  We shared cold sesame noodles ($7.95), pan fried pork dumplings ($8.50 for 6), beef wrapped scallion pancake ($8.95, 5 slices 1" to 2" wide), spicy chicken dumplings ($8.50 for 6).  All this was so good, Gil was almost in tears thinking about what he left behind in exchange for Florida sunshine.   
. . .

No, Israel -- the moron's action today on the Iran nuclear deal does not make you safer.  It only raises the security threat to other nations to match yours.



Saturday, October 7, 2017

In With the New

Monday, October 2, 2017
This morning, we learned of the mass killing in Las Vegas.  Motive remains uncertain as I write.  One thing is certain, however, the offering of thoughts and prayers for the victims, the knee-jerk response of those in a position to make a difference in lieu of actually making a difference.  Rather than lament this all-too-familiar response to maniacal gun violence, I thought that, in the best American tradition, I would exploit it.  

Therefore, I am establishing the Thoughts and Prayers Club, membership exclusive to elected officials and those required to pay the Alternative Minimum Tax.  Upon the reporting of any significant tragedy involving American citizens, the Thoughts and Prayers Club would offer thoughts and prayers on behalf of our members, who are typically preoccupied doing very important things.  Dispensing empathy in this fashion keeps the names of our members in the public eye, demonstrates their humanity, and avoids them being caught disengaged or uncaring at a moment of public grief.  

Dues are reasonable, considering the station in life that our members have achieved, and additional funding is made available by the National Rifle Association.
. . .

I loved the opening sentence of a column in the Sunday paper: "I have been summoned to jury duty or, as New Yorkers think of it, lunch in Chinatown."  You may wish to read the entire selection. 
. . .

The weekend saw Columbia University's football team continue its run toward a national championship.  The local standings are now
Columbia University               3-0
New York Jets                         2-2
New York Giants                     0-4
. . .

A critical part of Yom Kippur services, which we had 48 hours ago, is the Al Het prayer, repeated many times throughout.  As part of our atonement, we ask to be pardoned and forgiven for a litany of sins -- actions, thoughts, inactions, postures, "of which we are aware and those of which we are not aware."   

A comprehensive Orthodox version is provided by Chabad.   

Before Yom Kippur, I heard from several of the sweetest people I know, asking forgiveness in the spirit of the holy day.  On my part, recognizing that there are only so many hours in the day, I limited my appeals to two people, who had to endure some of my worst behavior during the year. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 
Regarding gun control in light of the mass slaughter in Las Vegas, the White House asks us to wait "when that time comes for those conversations to take place."  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/10/02/white-house-now-is-not-the-time-to-talk-about-gun-control-but-if-you-look-to-chicago/?utm_term=.27cd4e721693

A couple of weeks ago, Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, told us that "to use time and effort to address it [climate change] at this point is very, very insensitive to this people in Florida."

I approve this logic.  As a Mets fan, after a 70-92 season, I think that this is not the time to talk about baseball.

The New York Times, however, is unwilling to heed the wise counsel from Washington and offers a graphic illustration of gun violence.    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/02/opinion/editorials/mass-shootings-congress.html?_r=0
. . .

Speaking of sweet people, Michael Ratner invited me to join him at the New-York Historical Society (they retain the dash for historical accuracy) tonight.  David Nasaw, author of The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P.Kennedy, moderated a discussion with Larry Tye, author of Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon.  Tye, admittedly a fan of Kennedy's, was direct in his criticisms of Kennedy's low points, his service as an acolyte of Senator Joseph McCarthy, and his manic pursuit of Fidel Castro in Operation Mongoose a/k/a the Cuban Project, "a program of covert action, including sabotage, psychological warfare, intelligence collection, and the creation of an internal revolution against the communist government."    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_Project

According to Tye, Kennedy never privately accepted the Warren Commission's version of his brother's death and thought that any one of three forces were the underlying cause --  Fidel Castro, Jimmy Hoffa  or organized crime -- all of which Bobby Kennedy had intensely pursued.  

Tye believes that Kennedy would have made an excellent president, effecting an alliance of disprivileged white and black Americans, fighting poverty and inequality, and ending the Vietnam war.  I am particularly skeptical about the latter claim.  As Ken Burns's 18-hour documentary film series is just in the process of reminding us, the societal divisions surrounding the Vietnam War were harsh and deep.  And, in 1968, the presidential election year, there were at least 536,100 American troops in Vietnam, whose withdrawal without the cloak of Nixonian rhetoric of "peace with honor" might have further torn at the  fragile bonds of tolerance and civility required by a democratic society.  
. . .

Michael and I continued the discussion at Flame, 100 West 82nd Street, a large, sprawling Pan Asian restaurant, which features three large hibachi tables, with chefs chopping and flipping and mixing ingredients in a fashion that used to draw criticism from our parents as playing with our food.  Fortunately, we were seated far away from the boisterous crowds surrounding these displays and we concentrated on the Chinese-Malaysian portions of the large menu.  We ordered Charsiu Duck Buns ($8 for three small sticky buns filled with duck in a barbecue sauce), Curry Chicken Samosa ($7 for chopped chicken in four star-shaped fried shells with curried mustard sauce on the side), Indian Roti ($6 for a thin crêpe with buttery curry sauce on the side), Peach Marinate Ribs ($9 for four ribs with the meat falling off the bone), and Crispy Duck Buns ($8 for two 2-inch square, 1/2 inch thick slices of duck breast, Peking style), the best of the lot.  I can also recommend the flavor enhancer of the 10% discount for paying cash.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017
The Onion printed the same headline for the fifth time in 3 1/2 years in reporting the Las Vegas gun violence: “‘No Way to Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”  http://www.theonion.com/article/no-way-prevent-says-only-nation-where-regularly-ha-57086

On the other hand, you have to be a bit surprised that the sober Tom Friedman, temporarily diverted from cheerleading for globalism, fails to respect the calls for silence about gun violence coming from on high in a piece entitled "If Only Stephen Paddock Were a Muslim."     https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/03/opinion/stephen-paddock-las-vegas-terrorism.html

Thursday, October 5, 2017
I guess that ten years after his graduation from college, I should drop calling Max K. the Wonder Boy, a label that seemed to fit during those years that we frequently went to Mets games at Shea Stadium.  Now, in addition to some miscellaneous ventures, he operates a residence in Tribeca with four bedrooms offered on Airbnb.  That subject was the focus of our conversation today at lunch at Lilli & Loo, 792 Lexington Avenue, a Pan Asian restaurant with white tablecloths befitting its location one block from Bloomingdale's.  Prices on the menu tended to be in same upscale zone, although the decor remained modest beyond the tablecloths.  

We shared small plates and appetizers as much as a matter of taste as economics.  We had cold sesame noodles ($8.25), Kung Pao chicken dumplings ($9.95 for six), scallion pancake ($8.25), and satay chicken ($9.50).  The noodles and dumplings were very good; the pancake was good, deep fried, crispy outside, chewy inside.  The four chicken skewers were dry, probably grilled long in advance; the accompanying peanut sauce looked more genuine than it tasted.

Friday, October 6, 2017
I think that the arrival of 5778 is sufficient cause to see the departure of all those slit at the shoulder tops that women have been wearing for too long.  I have secured a large collection of fabrics, solids of many hues (but a lot of black) and a wide assortment  of patterns that can easily be used to cover what is, for most people, an uninteresting body part.  As for utility, exposing the shoulder might save time on vaccinations, but do little more. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Out With the Old

Monday, September 25, 2017
A new study of the U.S. stock market's long term performance produced some discouraging results.  "Only 4 percent of all publicly traded stocks account for all of the net wealth earned by investors in the stock market since 1926."  So, I recommend that you dump the other 96%.
. . . 

This summer, I met and spent some time with Hadassah Nakiza, Solomon Walusimbi and Aron Sebagala, 3 college students from Uganda, who belong to Abayudaya, the local Jewish community, which originated about 100 years ago with the conversion of a local leader.  The Abayudaya are in a difficult place, in several senses, but they just had a major celebration, reported by the New York Times, a joint wedding of 5 couples.   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/22/fashion/jewish-weddings-in-uganda.html
. . .

Away from the social pages, the New York Times gauged how "pet-friendly" the 100 largest American residential markets are.  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/21/realestate/the-most-pet-friendly-cities-in-the-united-states.html   

I am happy to see that New York was 96 of 100, scraping the bottom.  I've never been a pet person and only during my tenure in Marriage #1 did I have to share living quarters with a four-legged animal.  I should also note that the 10 cities at the top of this list are almost exactly those that I go out of my way to avoid.  Lassie, go home.
. . .

An errand in midtown gave me an excuse to have lunch at Kung Fu Little Steam Buns Ramen, 811 Eighth Avenue.  I was pleased on my first visit, February 8, 2017, and then especially enjoyed the Peking duck buns ($7.25).  Today, the buns disappointed me; they were freshly cooked, plump, but just didn't taste very ducky.  However, the scallion pancake with beef ($6.95) saved the day.  The crispy pancake was wrapped around slivers of beef and onions cooked in a thin (but not watery) sweet sauce.  It was delicious.  I hope it stays that way on my next visit.  

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
The Boyz Club met at Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, the enormous dim sum palace.  As always, I failed to keep count of the steamed, pan fried, boiled, deep fried, baked, sauteed items that landed on our table in rapid succession.  All I can say is that the six of us happily spent $15 each, including a generous tip.  

On the other hand, Jing Fong's uptown branch, at the corner of 78th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, blessedly close to Palazzo di Gotthelf, has not yet opened for lunch, only offering dinner after 5 PM.  I don't understand this posture.  Dim sum, Jing Fong's specialty, is a daytime activity and the location is probably only second to Jerusalem in the density of Jewish occupants, notorious for their devotion to Chinese food, at all hours day and night.  I await the proper alignment of its schedule.
. . .

These are dire times and it's not just the prospect of a nuclear confrontation that threatens us.  Frosty pod rot is attacking cacao beans in Latin America and may be moving to West Africa, thereby imperiling the world's supply of chocolate.  

With the billions of people in India and China beginning to learn to save room for dessert, the chocolate market is already under pressure.  Should the supply be seriously impinged by crop failure, I fear to contemplate the depth of the resulting crisis.  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Deb Amlen is the editor of “Wordplay,” the crossword column of the New York Times.  I was delighted to read, in her own words, that she "received her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Guessing from Syracuse University, although they insisted on calling it 'Marketing.'”
. . .

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an unreconstructed enemy of freedom, starts bleating about free speech, I am ready to burn my ACLU membership card.  Our legal view of free speech has been distorted from the outset.  Before even the introduction of the First Amendment, the unamended Constitution offered copyright protection, arguably desirable, but a limit on the freedom of expression.  

Now, we are thoroughly accustomed to truth-in-advertising and product labeling legislation and, with a president who lies with every breath, we might yearn for similar strictures to be extended from the grocery store to the White House. 

New Yorker magazine movie review this week says: "At the start of 'Fargo' (1996), the Coen brothers, keeping the straightest of faces, informed us, 'This is a true story,' and proceeded to unwrap a pack of delicious lies."  The subsequent television series uses the same technique.  Should we accept this exercise in cuteness as artistic expression, a protected form of free speech, or recognize that mislabeled ideas may be as dangerous as mislabeled food products?  Forgetting the legal issues for a moment, the overriding problem with trying to police the political marketplace is "Who's to judge?"  In this regard, I think that conservative philosophy, if not its current adherents, offers the best answers -- personal responsibility and self control.  Of course, we may have to wait until we have a national leader to whom this applies.

Thursday, September 28, 2017
I have an excuse.  It was Germany.  Germany made me sit home last night watching several episodes of "Shetland," a very good crime series set off the coast of Scotland, when I had tickets to the last Mets home game of the season, which they won, by the way, beating the ignoble Atlanta Braves 7-1.  

You see, Germany is 6 hours ahead of New York and I adjusted my mobile phone accordingly on our recent trip.  However, resetting the local time upon our return to the Holy Land did not affect all the storage locations in memory, in the cloud, under the bed, wherever that stuff is kept.  So, the Mets game previously entered into my calendar for 7 PM on Wednesday, September 27th, was displayed as 1 AM, Thursday, September 28th.  Being a big picture guy, not bogged down with details, Thursday stuck with me and that's how I arranged my schedule.

Wait 'til next year. 

Friday, September 29, 2017
Going into the weekend, here is the standing of New York football teams:
Columbia University          2-0
Jets                                   1-2
Giants                               0-3

Let the fasting begin.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Pizza and Politics

Monday, September 18, 2017
Our trip to Berlin was very busy, so now I am catching up on my reading.  In the New Yorker dated September 11, an article about the alleged mistreatment of a Muslim member of the New York Police Department identified David Cohen as the deputy commissioner of NYPD's Intelligence Division and formerly deputy director of the CIA.  Responding to allegations that the department conducted racial profiling, Cohen said, "I don't know what an Arabic-sounding name is.  Who knows what an Arabic-sounding name is?"  How reassuring.

Shake Shack started out in 2004 as a hot dog stand in Madison Square Park, the original site of Madison Square Garden.  It has been quite successful ever since, more than I can say for the current occupants of Madison Square Garden.  It has 136 outlets worldwide and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.  In spite of this coverage, I only ate there once before.  Actually, it was Shake Shack's success that kept me away, à la Yogi Berra.  I just wasn't prepared to be the 30th in line to order a hamburger.  

Most often, I approached the Shake Shack behind the left field stands at Citifield during a Mets game, only to find dozens of people ahead of me, sometimes more than were seated in the stands.  I have had enough delayed gratification waiting for the Mets to play consistently winning baseball, so I wasn't prepared to shuffle very slowly to place an order.  On the one occasion that I got to eat at Shake Shack, it was at the branch at 366 Columbus Avenue, right across from the American Museum of Natural History.  It was an off hour and the wait was tolerable, which was how I would describe the hamburger I ate.  

Today, I returned to the same location with no intention of ordering a hamburger, but rather to have a fried chicken sandwich, the subject of recent praise.  At around 12:30, the joint was busy, but not crazy busy.  About 20 people were waiting for their order to be ready, while another 12 or so were waiting to place an order.  Things moved quickly, with three people taking orders and another dozen working behind them, cooking and organizing the food.  

Two different chicken sandwiches were offered, Chick'n Shack, a crispy chicken breast with lettuce, pickles and buttermilk herb mayo on a bun ($6.55), and Hot Chick'n, a crispy chicken breast dusted with a guajillo (medium hot chili pepper) and cayenne pepper blend and topped with slaw and pickles on a bun ($6.79).  I ordered both.  I enjoyed the mild version more; the chicken was not greasy and the fried coating had a snap to it.  The spicy version was more peppery than spicy and the chicken seemed to get lost.  So, if the line isn't too long, step up for the Chick'n Shack.  Note, I skipped the French fries to leave room for the second sandwich, so I cannot comment on this usually essential part of my unbalanced diet.    

Tuesday, September 19, 2017
On April 28, 2017, Stony Brook Steve and I shared a very good lunch at La Salle Dumpling Room, 3141 Broadway, in the immediate vicinity of Columbia University, Barnard College, Jewish Theological Seminary, Union Theological Seminary and Manhattan School of Music, probably the densest collection of intellectual and artistic firepower in the world.  On Saturday night, returning from dinner,  I spotted another branch, brand new of La Salle Dumpling Room, 25 West End Avenue.  Therefore, it only made sense that Steve and I visit this location for lunch as soon as possible.

The new site is small, 11 two tops crowded together.  The menu appears to be the same as the mother ship, with prices holding.  We shared cold sesame noodles ($7.95), 6 pan fried pork dumplings ($8.50), 6 steamed chicken dumplings in spicy sauce ($8.50), and popcorn chicken ($10.95).  We ate very well and abundantly.  The spicy sauce for the chicken dumplings was just right, tangy, but stopping short of inducing tears.  Service was quick and efficient.   Customers included students from John Jay College and staff from what is now called Mount Sinai Roosevelt Division, Mount Sinai St. Luke's, St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center, Mount Sinai West, or, most inclusively, Mount Sinai St. Luke's-Roosevelt, all resulting from the moshing together of St. Luke's Hospital and Roosevelt Hospital under the hegemony of Mount Sinai Medical Center, which previously gobbled up Beth Israel Medical Center.  This conglomeration was in response to New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center (which includes  Columbia University Medical Center) and NYU Langone Medical Center, consisting of Tisch Hospital, the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, and the Hospital for Joint Diseases.  It seems destined that all of these entities will eventually merge into The Sick Place.
   
In any case, Steve and I agreed that we have found a new clubhouse and encourage your patronage as well.  

Wednesday, September 20, 2017
The Huffington Post published a survey today looking back partially on the 2016 presidential election.  

I must admit that I was shocked by the views expressed about Hillary Clinton.  51% of the respondents had "Somewhat unfavorable" or "Very unfavorable" opinions of her, less than one year after she got a majority of the popular vote in the presidential election.  The survey did not posit her against you-know-who and did not report attitudes towards him.  Maybe the folks were upset with her, because she failed to keep him out of office.  That may prove to be her unpardonable offense.
. . .

In a column that appears only on-line, the New York Times boasts that it "introduced readers to pizza 73 years ago today as 'a pie made from a yeast dough and filled with any number of different centers.'

'With the dexterity of a drum major wielding a baton, the baker picks one up and twirls it around, first in one hand and then in the other,' the report said, describing Luigino’s Pizzeria Alla Napoletana in Times Square."  

The Times has claimed this distinction before, that it "introduced readers to pizza 73 years ago," and we know that their readers are the gatekeepers of Western civilization, at least on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.  However, I addressed this issue before, attempting to set the table straight.   http://alanatlunch.blogspot.com/2015/04/how-old-is-that-pizza.html?m=1

At the time, I wrote that: 
I ate at Luigino’s regularly when I worked at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, on West 44th Street, Saturdays throughout college.  It felt very much like the old section of John’s Pizzeria on Bleecker Street, with high-backed wooden booths, and thinnish-crusted pizza.  The problem with the Times article then and now is, I believe, that it was scooped long before by the Daily News (or was it the Daily Mirror?).  I remember a clipping on Luigino’s wall of a story, the work of a good publicist, about this strange food, with a photograph of Rockettes from nearby Radio City Music Hall sampling slices.  It’s been a long time, but I really believe that this story dated from the 1930s.  A search of my brother’s memory, Arthur Dobrin’s memory (they both worked at the Bar Association at some time), and the Internet only yielded the image below.  Arthur confirms the newspaper article on the wall, but has no recollection of a photograph in it.  My brother simply relishes the memory of good lunches.  The E-Bay seller claimed that this menu was from the 1930s, but offered no support for this. 


According to a posting on Ancestry.com, Luigino Milone, residing at 147 West 48th Street, registered for the draft in WWII.  The location was leveled for construction of the Mc-Graw Hill Building in 1969.  Please understand that I don’t profess Luigino’s to be the first pizzeria in New York, or even as "the oldest established pizza house in the city," as Craig Claiborne speculated in the Times, on November 4, 1966.  

Lombardi’s at 53 ½ Spring Street, a successor now at 32 Spring Street, claims to have been the first in the USA, starting in 1905.   http://www.firstpizza.com/   
John’s of Bleecker Street, 278 Bleecker Street, my favorite, started in 1929, but on Sullivan Street.   http://www.johnsbrickovenpizza.com/history.php


Thursday, September 21, 2017
5778, but who's counting?

In case you haven't succumbed to Clinton Fatigue, I suggest two somewhat contradictory views of Hillary's career and her current book, What Happened.  Both are worth reading; buckle up.

The New Yorker has a somewhat balanced appraisal of Clinton.

Huffington Post savages Clinton. 

No matter what, 5777 was not her year.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Not Germany

Google's heightened security concerns prevented me from adhering to my normal publishing schedule while traveling abroad.  I have divided the accumulated material into two articles, Germany and Not Germany.


Monday, September 4, 2017
I came across another best of restaurant list, in fact, a collection of such lists. 
The one that I found most relevant was the oxymoronic top 100 "Gourmet Casual."  It's an extremely rare American restaurant today that expects its patrons to appear as if they are about to engage in a serious, adult activity.  While some might balk at bare feet, there's little else that might be recognized as other than casual, regardless of the hefty price tag at the end of the evening.

Ironically, the only one of the first 10 of this oddly-named group that I was familiar with is Pêche Seafood Grill in New Orleans, where we ate (very well) in early May.  I didn't even recognize the names of the two local entries in the top 10, placing second and third: Roberta's, 261 Moore Street, Brooklyn, not to be confused with our longtime favorite Roberto's, 603 Crescent Avenue, Bronx, and Wildair, 142 Orchard Street.  Maybe I shouldn't complain (as if you could stop me), since 29 of the 100 are located in the Holy Land.  

To be fair, as I went down the list, I noticed that none of the fabled la-di-dah joints were present, thus somewhat justifying the label "casual."
. . .

If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, North and South Korea have good reason to cooperate, even seek unification.  "Why Trump, After North Korea’s Test, Aimed His Sharpest Fire at the South."   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/03/us/trump-north-south-korea-nuclear.html?_r=0
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Today, with a plane to catch early in the evening, I stayed very close to home in the company of Stony Brook Steve.   We went to Empire Columbus Avenue, 193 Columbus Avenue, which has been around since 1976, but today may have only been the second time that I have eaten there even though no other Chinese restaurant is closer to Palazzo di Gotthelf.  My lack of enthusiasm in the past was a matter of distance, not how close to my residence, but how far from Chinatown.  With few exceptions, tam, the Yiddish word for flavor, decreases as you move north on Manhattan Island, even as prices increase . 

We shared a scallion pancake ($4.95), Crispy Beef w. Orange Flavor ($15.95), and Walnut Chicken ($13.95).  The beef was among 3 dozen items available as a lunch special at $8.25 - $10.75, which gets you a choice of rice -- white, brown, plain fried -- and soup, egg roll or spring roll.  The scallion pancake lacked crispiness and scallions.  I liked the beef very much, especially its goopy sauce.  Steve enjoyed the chicken more; I found it too salty.

Should I have sought a more exalted experience before leaving the Holy Land for downtown Europe?  Maybe, but time was flying before I had to, and, after all, it was still Chinese.
. . .

It took three taxicabs seriatim to get us to the airport for a far less dramatic journey across the Atlantic Ocean.  

Thursday, September 7, 2017
The New York Times announced the winner of the New Yorkest New York film -- Crooklyn by Spike Lee.  I can't properly criticize the choice, since I never saw it.  Everyone will have the opportunity to see it on September 13th, when it will be shown all over the city, except me because that's the day of our return flight.
. . .

My problems with the Internet while traveling did not extend to receiving messages and material.  Thus, I was able to read this appraisal of America's First Daughter.  "She is more a logo than a person, a scarecrow stuffed with branding, an heiress-turned-model-turned-multimillionaire’s-wife playacting as an authority on the challenges facing working women so that she can sell more pastel sheath dresses."  
https://nyti.ms/2x9y19Z 

Saturday, September 9, 2017
Overnight, I received photographs of dear Donna J.'s lumberyard on St. Martin, which two days ago had been a hotel.    

Wednesday, September 13, 2017
High winds over Germany, sounds like a WWII movie, but it was the reason that our departing flight sat on the ground one extra hour before taking off, just enough to have us miss our connecting flight in London.  However, we were booked on British Air and they had ample alternatives once we got to London.  

The actual transatlantic leg was quite pleasant and edifying.  I read for hours, finishing another Donna Leon crime novel, featuring Guido Brunetti, Commissario of Police in Venice.  Following my young bride's suggestion, I then watched some episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the language and neuroses left intact, something rare in airplane entertainment.  The episodes dated from 2009 and were only partly familiar.  But, I found them very educational.  What a jerk!  Am I that big a jerk?  I'm not going to be such a big jerk.
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The New York Times restaurant critic is asking for big trouble with the headline "Is New York’s Best Pizza in New Jersey?"
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/12/dining/razza-pizza-review-jersey-city.html?_r=0

While he makes a good case, I am duty bound to investigate this personally, probably in the company of my fresser friends, and you know who you are.

Thursday, September 14, 2017
Ron Goldbrenner said it best: "We have all now finally graduated from City [College].  Stanley Feingold passed away today."
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The newspaper has a provocative story today that poses basic questions of crime and punishment.   
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/13/us/harvard-nyu-prison-michelle-jones.html?_r=0

In 1996, Michelle Jones was sentenced to 50 years for murdering her infant son.  In prison, she apparently devoted herself to education and self-improvement.  She eventually received a bachelor’s degree from Ball State University in 2004, and audited graduate-level classes at Indiana University.  She was recently paroled in recognition of her rehabilitation.  

She applied to several graduate schools, including Harvard, which at first admitted her to its History Department.  Then, "the university’s leadership — including the president, provost, and deans of the graduate school — reversed."  According to the New York Times, there is evidence that the administration was "concern[ed] that her background would cause a backlash among rejected applicants, conservative news outlets or parents of students."  I know, at least, how to have mollified conservative news outlets.  Ms. Jones would have to declare herself as a Republican who found Jesus.  Instead, she decided to go to N.Y.U., starting classes last week.  

Justice?

Friday, September 15, 2017
Tradition holds that Jewish ritual objects and prayer books are not to be simply discarded, but buried in a Jewish cemetery.  So, today, humming the Rolling Stones' song "Beast of Burden," with the able assistance of Jeff Heller, humanitarian and first class schlepper, I collected 20 boxes of early vintage prayer books, no longer in use, from one of West End Synagogue's overstuffed storage rooms for delivery to Plaza Jewish Community Chapel, slightly over one mile north of the synagogue.  May they rest in peace.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Germany

Google's heightened security concerns prevented me from adhering to my normal publishing schedule while traveling abroad.  I have divided the accumulated material into two articles, Germany and Not Germany.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017
After a 2-hour layover in Dublin, we landed in Berlin at 10 AM local time.  Passport control, baggage claim and the taxicab ride to our hotel all moved apace and we were taking a nap in our room before noon.

We walked to Sets, Schlüterstraße 36, taken from a list of the alleged best lunch and brunch places in the vicinity.   https://theculturetrip.com/europe/germany/articles/the-best-breakfast-brunch-spots-in-charlottenburg-berlin/

It proved to be a good choice.  The midday rain showers ended, at least for a couple of hours, and we were able to have a very good meal sitting outside, immediately opposite a perpendicularly parked Tesla.  I had an omelet containing mushrooms, green onions, bacon and potatoes, while my young bride had lox, cream cheese and spinach in a wrap, which she pronounced far better than the sum of its parts.  The milchkaffee (do I hear echoes of covfefe?) was particularly good, that's coffee with steamed milk, and served in real drinking vessels, not repurposed egg cups.  

Our walk to and from Sets revealed this neighborhood, Charlottenburg, to be loaded with ritzy boutiques, designer furniture stores and, more importantly, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese and Thai restaurants.  

Thursday, September 7, 2017
We met Marianne Motherby for lunch.  She recently stepped down from the post of general counsel for Deutsches Bahn, the national railroad system.  We came to her via Barbara and Dean Alfange, who have remained in contact with her since she studied American constitutional law with Dean during a one-year USA stay in 1979-80.  She was charming and well informed in so many areas and in English.  

I erred badly, however, when I marched off in a different direction as Marianne and America's Favorite Epidemiologist went for a stroll leading them to Eisbox, Knesebeckstraße 21-23, one of Berlin's best ice cream parlors.  When I went there after dinner, the joint was already closed.  Who ever heard of an ice cream parlor closing at 6 PM?  That's plain un-American.

Dinner, on the other hand, was a huge success.  As part of this Let Bygones Be Bygones tour, we ate at Saigon Green, Kantstraße 23, a crowded, casual Vietnamese joint.  We shared Crispy Lucky Rolls, finger-sized, fried vegetable rolls, and proceeded separately through Thuha's Favourite, tofu in a buttery curry sauce (she), and Bun Bo Nam Bo, slices of beef on vermicelli in a spicy lime sauce, and Duck 'N' Roll, shredded duck and hoisin sauce wrapped in a thin crepe (me).  We agreed that this was great food, helping me cope with the later disappointment of encountering Eisbox's ridiculously early closing time.

Walking in the neighborhood of our hotel, in the traditional center of West Berlin, we immediately learned of one major gap in Teutonic efficiency.  Opposite sides of the street are independently numbered.  As far as I can tell, on a north-south street, the numbers go from low to high on the west side of the street and from high to low on the east side, while something equally confusing is happening on east-west streets.  This weird system seems to be limited to Berlin, although several knowledgeable locals could not explain why.  

Friday, September 8, 2017
We spent more than 4 hours visiting sites of Jewish interest today guided by Roey, an Israeli artist who has lived in Berlin for 7 years.  His knowledge of history was strong, but he added an aesthetic dimension as well.
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We were pleased with dinner at Pratirio, Knesebeckstraße 22, a Greek restaurant.

Saturday, August 9, 2017
Saturday morning, we attended synagogue services at Pestalozzistraße Synagogue, a "Liberal" congregation as locally denoted.  The building was completely rebuilt after the war, suffering more from British air raids than Kristallnacht, because it was immediately surrounded by multi-unit dwellings occupied by good Germans.



In spite of the local Liberal label, we regarded the service as conservative Conservative, the men and women seated separately, all Hebrew right out of the book, no interpretations or interpolations in German.  Yet, discordantly, there was a booming organ and a professional choir. 
A more welcome surprise was Lew (pronounced Lev) Norman, whose Bar Mizvah day this was.  He was a very poised young man, reciting his Hebrew prayers and German speech with confidence and ease, although I could not judge the content of either.  One aspect of the service was unfortunately familiar.  About halfway through, a cellphone started ringing, causing someone to jump up and hustle out of the sanctuary.

As we joined the congregation for Kiddush, the after-service meal, we had another surprise.  Jane an actress and Fred a lawyer, from Needham, Massachusetts, were in attendance, inspired by the same curiosity that we had.  Of all things, they are also staying at our hotel and (drumroll) used to live at 180 West End Avenue, the neighbor to the Palazzo di Gotthelf at 170 West End Avenue.  How about that?
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We visited the Jewish Museum Berlin, in the afternoon.  Besides the material displayed, illuminating 1,500 years of German Jewish history, Daniel Liebeskind's design has some interesting architectural features to establish and disturb mood, darkness and light, sloping and tilted flooors.  

To my trained eye, Jews made up only a very small portion of the many visitors.
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We choose Delhi6, Friedrichstraße 237, for dinner, partially because it was only one block from the museum.  That is according to the map it is only one block.  Walking on feet required more than three blocks because of construction.  It was worth it, however.  My large portion of Delhi6 Mixed Biriyani had enough lamb, chicken and prawns to warrant the 13.90€ price.

Sunday, September 10, 2017
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and its information center are not connected to the Jewish Museum Berlin.  The memorial was opened in 2005, funded by the Federal Parliament.  It is an open space, measuring over 200,000 square feet, just opposite the American Embassy.  It is covered with 2,711 concrete blocks of varying heights, but the same length and width.  People sit on the lower ones; children run up and down the alleys formed by the higher ones.  It's not a maze, but with a couple of turns you can lose your companions.  A graveyard comes immediately to mind; I thought also of people, children and adults of all sizes, whose growth had been halted.  The above ground site carries not a hint of meaning, no words, no facts are attached to the 2,711 blocks, a number itself that goes unexplained.  I was reminded somewhat of a Harold Pinter play, said to reflect "the volatility and elusiveness of the past."
  
This level of abstraction has been the focus of much opposition to the memorial.  A review in the New Yorker said: "Without that title [Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe], it would be impossible to know what the structure is meant to commemorate; there’s nothing about these concrete slabs that signifies any of the words of the title, except, perhaps, 'memorial'—insofar as some of them, depending on their height, may resemble either headstones or sarcophagi." 

The Holocaust Information Center directly underneath the array of concrete blocks is everything they are not.  It is detailed, specific, declarative.  Names have faces, birth dates, dates (sometimes approximate) and manner of death.  Victims are not merely identified as victims; photographs of family gatherings and celebrations introduce them as human beings long before they became prey.  I believe that the sterility of the open field is more than balanced by the richness of the underground vault.  

Need I say that this memorial is another vivid reminder of Nazi evil and demonstrates the impossibility of decent people associating themselves in any fashion with Naziism, past or present.  There are no two sides to genocide. 

Monday, September 11, 2017
By careful scheduling, I was able to get to Eisbox, Knesebeckstraße 21, well before its absurdly early closing time.  It's a simple joint, one dozen ice cream, sorbet and frozen yoghurt flavors, and some beverages.  

I had scoops of chocolate and strawberry (erdberre) mint sorbet in a cup for 3.50€.  That's not as simple as it sounds.  Many flavors have their own price, not the normal 1.50€ per scoop.  In fact, the very appealing blood orange (blutorange) flavor has to be weighed separately and then charged per 100 grams, which proved too complicated for me.  

While the price still was modest, so was the size of the scoops.  The taste of the strawberry mint was better than expected and my expectations for ice cream are high.  I'm not sure how many scoops they offer as their biggest serving, but, if I ever return, I may aim for my personal best, achieved in the Hague in 1989, six scoops in one cup.

Tuesday, September 12, 2107


These are stolpersteine, literally stumbling stones, found on sidewalks throughout Europe now.  Each one has the name, birthdate and fate of a Jew who lived in a nearby building.  Commemorated here are Ernst and Kathe Wrzeszinski, Anna Misch, and Margarete and Richard Ernst Rothenberg.  These and more were on the avenue around the corner from our hotel.  According to Wikipedia, at the start of this year there were over 56,000 in 22 countries.  The project originated in 1992 by a German artist and continues under a non-profit organization.
. . .

By chance, we had tickets to a Berlin Philharmonic concert that is part of Marianne's subscription, so we joined together for the evening.  Berliner Philharmonie, the concert hall, was unattractive from the outside, but brilliantly designed on the inside.  The audience sat in odd-shaped tiers surrounding the orchestra, an unusual arrangement for a classical venue.

Susanna llki, a young Finnish woman, conducted a program unfamiliar to me, Busoni, Bartok and Sibelius, but all the more exciting when performed so well.  Gil Shaham, an Israeli violinist, was the soloist in the Bartok concerto.  

Monday, September 11, 2017
Marooush, Knesebeckstraße 48, has belly dancing on the weekend, befitting its Egyptian character.  Tonight, there was only hookah puffing to evoke the old country, although we asked for a seat as far removed from the smoke as possible.  Safely positioned, we had a pleasant meal, forgetting for a time what we had endured under Pharaoh.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Beginning to wind down, I spent a lovely hour this afternoon sitting on a bench near a cluster of world famous museums without entering any one of them.  
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For our farewell diner, we met Marianne at Anabelas Kitchen, Pestalozzistraße 3, an excellent restaurant owned and operated by a Portuguese woman chef.  
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I offer my summary observation of Berlin, if you get the crap knocked out of you, you get the opportunity to build a bunch of exciting buildings.