Friday, January 27, 2017

One Step At A Time

Monday, January 23, 2017
OK, I'm woke.  I had my self-indulgent spell of moping, crying in my beer (Diet Pepsi, actually), but Saturday got me going again.  I got off my tuchus and joined hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers marching against the new president (and we know him best).  I started at 69th Street and Broadway with many members of West End Synagogue after services ended.  We then merged with a stream of West Siders coming down Broadway.  We proceeded to 42nd Street and Ninth Avenue, turned east on Forty Second Street and then north on Fifth Avenue, heading for Trump Tower between 56th Street and 57th Street.  At 50th Street, abreast of St. Patrick's Cathedral, it was impossible to move forward, so I peeled off down 50th Street to the subway, feeling renewed after almost three hours on the street.  

It's not just about policy; it's the leadership style that dwarfs any previous lapses of civility or honesty in the White House in my lifetime. 

Of course, the millions of people worldwide who came out to oppose the new regime were overshadowed by the BILLIONS of people who came to the inauguration with the HIGHEST IQ of any crowd anywhere ever.

The list below provides a reasonable collection of Chinese restaurants.  My list would add a few and delete a few, but, given that it starts with Wo Hop, I am not chagrined.

Another food list that might interest you deals with the "best bites."
Here, I can neither commend or amend, since I have never been to any of these places, but the source is credible and you are perfectly able to fly solo.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017 
While my spirits have been buoyed by the quality and quantity of the opposition to the new regime, I can't entirely shake the idea that we are on the road to ruin.  So, the Upper West Side's Power Couple decided to travel it in style and we went out and bought a Lexus Hybrid sedan, thereby combining bourgeois self-indulgence with a twee environmental concern.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
I first read an article today in the physical New York Times about the economic value of law school attendance.  In brief, according to a new survey, graduates of some law schools, on the average, overcome their debt burden more readily than the graduates of others.  Not surprisingly, the biggies do best, but some plebeian institutions, such as Brigham Young University (it pays to be a Mormon), rival the Ivies for return on investment. 
I went on-line afterwards and confirmed what I hoped for.  The electronic version of the story contained a link to the underlying survey, rich with detail not found in the print version.  

Stony Brook Steve and I headed uptown for Chinese food at Xi'an Famous Foods, 2675 Broadway, one of a growing chain of deservedly successful joints.  Starting with a kiosk in a mall in Flushing's Chinatown, the second of 5 or 6 such discrete enclaves in New York City, Xi'an now has a half dozen locations in Manhattan.  I first went to their two-by-nothing spot under the Manhattan Bridge; after that closed, I migrated to their Bayard Street location.  Now, you can choose from East 34th Street, West 45th Street, West 54th Street, East 78th Street, among others.  They range from tiny to small, the aggregate space to sit and eat about as large as a shuffleboard court.  

The 16 or so stools pulled up to ledges around the uptown joint were kept occupied by young people of both European and Asian ancestry.  I ordered "spicy cumin lamb hand-ripped noodles" ($10.69), which lived up to its name in all respects.  Xi'an is noted for its cumin-spiced lamb, presented several different ways.  Xi'an has defined its own path, quite apart from more familiar Chinese menus, and I am a devoted fan.    

I am also a fan of the New York Rangers and Gary M. and I headed to the game tonight at Madison Square Garden.  First, as an appropriate introduction to the evening, we had dinner at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 209 West 38th Street.  When baseball season begins, I will be visiting Ben's Best - Kosher Gourmet Delicatessen, 96-40 Queens Boulevard, Rego Park, on the way to CitiField.  Then, pedantically, I will explain the difference between Ben's and Ben's.  

Thursday, January 26, 2017
Welcome to the Year of the Rooster, actually the Year of the Fire Rooster, since the Chinese Zodiac combines 12 animals with 5 elements,  Gold, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth.  That produces a 60-year cycle of personality types, based on birth year.  A Fire Rooster supposedly has a "strong sense of time, trustworthy; good at managing money."  This contrasts with the Earth Rooster, who will emerge in 2029, "active, perceptive, like[s] traveling and making friends.

To celebrate the new year, the Boyz Club met at Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, the enormous dim sum palace.  As usual, the food flew fast and furious, so I cannot repeat the exact contents of our lunch.  However, out of consideration for the symbol of the new year, we had only one chicken dish.  Five of us consumed 15 dishes, including 3 second portions.  With generous gratuity, we paid $15 each.     

Friday, January 27, 2017

Steve, an observant Jew, dedicated himself to prying open lines of communication between Arabs and Israelis, aiming for mutual understanding as a first step on the long road to peace.  His efforts were often frustrated, but he kept chipping away against the fear, resentment and hatred that surround the issues at stake. 

Illness removed Steve from the scene (really from behind the scene) far too soon, although I got the impression that he found Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu harder to deal with than Yassir Arafat, offering little hope for the easing of tensions.  Read his book and pray that others try to fill his big footsteps.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Is There A Cardiologist In The House?

Monday, January 16, 2017
They voted for him because he tells it like it is, and then Kellyanne Conman tells them to judge the president-neglect based on “what’s in his heart” rather than “what’s come out of his mouth.”

Professional football has never had a profusion of Jewish players, no less Jewish stars.  While I had no reason to suspect that Aaron Rodgers, star quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, was Jewish in spite of bearing the name of Moses's brother, a story this weekend entirely buried the prospect.

It seems that Rodgers maintains close ties with his hometown of Chico, California, delivering a video pep talk to his high school football team before a championship game, buying equipment for the team, dining locally with his junior college coach.  What's wrong with this picture?  He has not spoken to his parents, who continue to reside in Chico, since 2014.  A nice Jewish boy could never get away with that.  

I recall a conversation that I had with a female colleague at a professional services firm, who came from Seattle.  When I asked her how often she spoke to her mother, I was shocked at her answer of about once a year.  At that time, my mother was only in her seventies, so I could expect that she would personally lead the search party rather than allow the state police to proceed on its own if I had not telephoned in more than three days. 

The Sunday book review carries several pages of advertising for vanity presses, companies that publish books at the author's expense.  Yesterday, one work, which shall remain nameless, carried this promotional message: "Copies of this book were sent to US President Obama, England's Queen Elizabeth and India's Prime Minister Modi."  Don't feel bad if you did not also receive a copy of the book.  The author is an only child and unmarried.  The initial print run was probably seven copies.

When I go to Chinatown now, no longer working in the vicinity, I'm faced with a strategic choice.  Return to one of my tried and true favorites or seek out a new place?   Today, I went to a new joint, Lian Jiang Restaurant, 88 Division Street, a very small space on a triangular corner, which had previously housed Reach House (November 17 2010).  I noted at the time that Reach House's menu included "Lucky Intestinal," but I didn't press my luck.  

Lian Jiang resembles your basic high school cafeteria or Army mess hall, plopping things down on your plate as you move down the line.  However, there is no room to move, so you stand in one spot and the server picks 4 items from 16 chrome steam table pans.  There is also a menu of about 50 items, but no one seemed anxious to order or serve from it.  And, the place seemed so small that I thought that they would have to order out if asked for anything not sitting in front of our nose.

I sat on a stool at the ledge that, along with one small table, provides the only seating.  A big mound of white rice and a bland, colorless broth are included in the $5 price, regardless of your choices.  In fact, I put a heaping cup of rice into the hot soup, making a satisfying porridge.  I ate chicken stir-fried with onions in soy sauce, grilled shrimp with head and tail attached, something chewy on a bone, and something chewy without a bone.  It was just about worth the $5.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017
C Bao, Asian Buns & Bubble Tea, 197 Worth Street, is brand new and succeeded a flower shop, not another restaurant.  It's only similarity to Lian Jiang is the tiny, triangular floor space it occupies.  Its attractive interior has walls that are either exposed brick or unfinished pine planks.  Seating is limited to a short ledge with four stools and a mezzanine with three small tables up a few stairs.  It is all about baos, a term often interchanged with buns in China and Vietnam.  I think of baos, though, as the spongy discs that are folded over their contents.  For instance, some restaurants serve baos instead of pancakes with Peking duck.    

C Bao offers 12 baos, duck, pork, chicken, beef, shrimp, fish, tofu, some fried, some grilled, some roasted.  9 out of 12 are $5.95, soft shell crab peaking at $9.95.  "Meals" combine a bao and a drink, saving about two bucks.  This month, C Bao is featuring a grilled chicken bao, with shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, and "black pepper sauce" tasting like bottled teriyaki sauce, at $5.95, buy one get one free.  Obviously, I started there and added a Korean bulgogi beef bun meal, with unsweetened peach oolong iced tea ($9.25 total).  While the chicken was okay, the beef was excellent, marinated in soy sauce and rice wine, cooked with green and yellow onions.  Best to wear a short sleeve shirt, so that you might lick the sauce off your forearms.  Note two baos would amply serve a normal human being.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017
Today's New York Times quotes a Republican woman, who voted for the president-neglect.  "I think he's going to put his money where his mouth is."  That's not my concern.  I want him to put his money where I put my money -- the IRS.  

Fortunately, the newspaper had more to offer than clich├ęs today.  A too brief print article describes a survey of the economic status of students at elite colleges.  While I was not surprised that the haves typically outnumber the have-nots, the gaps are eye-opening.  "At 38 colleges in America, including five in the Ivy League – Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn and Brown – more students came from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent."  Get the math? 1 > 60.  That's like 62,979,636 > 65,844,610 votes.

The on-line version of this article gives a more complete picture.

Ironically, this brings me to a column in the Sunday paper which "harks back to the mid-20th century, when City College of New York cost only a few hundred dollars a year and was known as the 'Harvard of the proletariat.'"  

This vital essay looks at the class/wealth divide from the perspective of public institutions of higher education, which did so much to bring low-income students into the middle class (Hello!), now being squeezed (choked) by legislatures obsessed by bathrooms.

Tom Adcock, in early years often confused with Jimmy Olsen of the Daily Planet, Stony Brook Steve and I had lunch at Le Soleil - Haitian Cuisine, 858 Tenth Avenue.  It's a small, casual   place, with 5 four tops and 2 two tops.  The kitchen struggled to keep up, even thought there was only one other customer most of the time that we were seated.

The menu is bilingual, with three or four specials for every day of the week, although a couple for jeudi were unavailable.  I had turkey stew ($12), which contained pieces of meat that I could not identify as parts of a turkey.  They were in a tasty sauce, however, and fried plantain discs, lettuce and tomatoes, and a big plate of brown rice and kidney beans were served along side.  

Friday, January 20, 2017
I'm a coward.  I can't read past the headline on most newspaper stories about our current national politics.  I mute the nightly news when certain faces appear.  I kept the television off throughout the daytime today.  I haven't retreated to alcohol or opiates to dull my senses, just bobbing and weaving to avoid the slings and arrows of a deluded populace and its clown-in-chief.  How does one proceed in the face of DT's "spiritual advisor" claiming that he has "a heart for God, a hunger for God”?  

I hope that I soon recover the will to act, to do more than write checks to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and  Please keep your courage, while I try to revive mine.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Filling The Gap

Monday, January 9, 2017
Even a large snowstorm in the Boston area did not lessen our enjoyment of the weekend in Massachusetts with our second and third generations.  However, the ride home, while only briefly through swirling snow squalls, held a major disappointment.  About halfway through the trip in the middle of the afternoon, we pulled off I-84 at exit 25, near Waterbury, Connecticut, to have lunch at Nardelli's Grinder Shoppe, 540 Plank Road, one of the Western Hemisphere's major culinary destinations (May 2, 2014, December 23, 2015).  Lo and behold, it was closed.  Never on Sunday.  

Many of you were probably not yet born on August 7, 1964, when Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, authorizing wide expansion of the US role in Vietnam.   Now, "the evidence suggests a disturbing and deliberate attempt by Secretary of Defense McNamara to distort the evidence and mislead Congress."

An article this weekend that I found insightful maintains that the Vietnam experience altered a fundamental basis of our democratic politics, trust in government and its leaders, which continues to haunt us.

The article incidentally illustrated the ever-growing gap between the haves and have-nots by looking at the military service of Yale students over time.  In World War I, 227 died in combat; 514 in World War II.  Apparently, only 3 Yale students died in Vietnam and none in combat since then.  I certainly don't suggest that CCNY students made up the difference.  The too many dead came from places and families far removed from our own and the end of the draft seems to ensure that future American combat deaths will not touch our friends and families.  

A seemingly unrelated statistic is the claim that 1 in 8 Americans have worked at McDonald's.  The origin of this factoid is somewhat obscure, but what I find significant is my inability to name anyone that I know who has ever worked at McDonald's.  That is a notable gap, too.  While I have been unemployed in the past, going back as far as parttime work in college, I never held a job at the minimum wage, which is where many fast food workers are stuck.  What do we really have in common?

Wait a minute!  Enough of this soft-hearted, liberal, empathetic navelgazing.  Maybe there's a problem in the gap between me and the kid working at McDonald's.  But, what about the gap between me (and you and almost everybody else) and the coterie of billionaires descending on Washington to repopulate the swamp?  CBS News reported that, "Mr. Trump is surrounding himself with a historic level of wealth that’s at least 50 times greater than the Cabinet that George W. Bush led."

Pop quiz -- The following was written by the Communist Daily Worker or Forbes (a/k/a the Capitalist tool)?  "A populist wave may have propelled Donald Trump to the nation’s highest office, but he is proving to be no man of the people. Trump has already proposed what appears to be the wealthiest Cabinet in modern U.S. history, a collection of elites that includes a billionaire heiress, ExxonMobil’s CEO, a former Goldman Sachs partner and an investor who made millions off underwater mortgages during the financial crisis."

Tuesday, January 10, 2017
The New York Times says, "Why Mr. [Oliver] Schmidt [formerly Volkswagen’s top emissions compliance executive in the United States] risked arrest by traveling in the United States remains a mystery."  Not to me.  I heard  that he was looking for a position with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017
In an article about WBGO, 88.3 FM, the Newark public radio station devoted to jazz, I learned that it is only the country's second largest jazz radio station.  KKJZ, 88.1 FM, in Los Angeles has almost 40% more listeners, although it serves a smaller population; LA 18.68 million in 2015  vs. NY 20.2 million.   Also, New York is far hipper than Los Angeles (hard to quantify, but readily experienced) with a much richer jazz history.  I see one reason for the disparity.  Cars.  The sprawl of Los Angeles and the lack of a mature rapid transit system put people in automobiles for hours at a time, encouraging radio listening and drive-by shootings.  
In any case, I listen to WBGO now more frequently than any other radio station, even sports talk stations.  Am I finally growing up?

Stony Brook Steve would insist that I haven't grown up, but he agreed to have lunch with me at the awkwardly named Hao Noodle and Tea By Madam Zhu's Kitchen, 401 Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue), a very well-reviewed restaurant at a classic Greenwich Village location, just below West 8th Street.  The boxy space was very attractive, mostly occupied by communal tables.  The two long walls are exposed brick, keeping the sound level high.  A pretty ceiling light fixture resembled a cloud of tiny lights.

As I replied to the hostess when asked, the food was interesting.  Expensive (left unsaid to her), but interesting.  We shared spicy beef with dried orange peel ($16), a small portion of one of the hottest spicy dishes that I have ever had; "Eight spice crispy tofu" ($10), squishy cubes that could have been marshmallows as far as I could tell; sticky rice bacon siu mai ($8 for 4 pieces).  The cheapest pot of tea was $6, which we skipped; a small bowl of white rice was $2.  Had the beef not been so spicy, we might have noticed that we did not have that much to eat.  As we walked through the old streets of Greenwich Village afterwards, we agreed that, in the words of Mother Ruth Gotthelf, this was not "real Chinese food."  

Thursday, January 12, 2107
I was wrong.  It seems that it wasn't a few Russians who determined the results of our presidential election, but one FBI director.  J. Edgar Hoover would be proud.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Tennis Anyone?

January 2, 2017
Saturday was the last day of 2016, but you don't need me to tell you that.  I said last week that I was reluctant to see 2016 end, because of my miserable expectations for public life under the incoming administration.  But, Saturday became particularly challenging and enigmatic when I managed to complete only about half of the New York Times crossword puzzle.  While Saturday's puzzle is the hardest of the week, I haven't failed so badly at it in many years.  And then I had to contemplate the implications of this.  Was it a signal to let the year go?  Was it it a sign of a bleak future?  Or, worse, was it a message that my gray brain cells were retreating as fast as my gray hairline?  

I returned to the puzzle several times until admitting defeat this morning and examining the solution printed with today's puzzle.  39 across -- Strips to pieces? Answer = baconbits.  I got stuck with ba__nai_s, because, going down, I put "cara" instead of "lamb" as an answer to the clue Term of endearment.  I must admit, however, that I also missed much easier clues.   

On the bright side, today starts the eighth year of this (ad)venture, which I began when I changed location for my job with the court system.  From 2002 through 2009, I worked at 71 Thomas Street, an address I never would have found on my own.  In January 2010, I moved to 60 Centre Street, the mother ship for New York County's Supreme Court, and, more important, immediately adjacent to Chinatown.  With access to this patch of Heaven on Earth, I started eating at restaurant after restaurant, recording my informal impressions as I went.  

Four different Chinese lunches a week were not unusual, even five.  I reached my 72nd place on May 28, 2010, choosing the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, 65 Bayard Street, to celebrate, where my lunch consisted of three scoops of ice cream, lychee, Zen butter and almond cookie ($6.50 then).  The number 72 was homage to the fabled number  of virgins awaiting the Islamic martyr in Heaven.  Isn't that sexist, though?  Should a female martyr have to endure the fumbled efforts of 72 inexperienced men?

I stopped counting restaurants when I retired at the end of 2015.  By then I had eaten lunch at over 320 different East Asian restaurants within walking distance of the courthouse.  They were mostly Chinese, with some Vietnamese, Malaysian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, as well.  There were no Cambodian, Laotian or Singaporean restaurants in the area; one place had some Indonesian items on its predominantly Malaysian menu.  For no good reason, I excluded Indian (really Pakistani/Bengali) restaurants from my count, although I recall less than half a dozen in the vicinity.   

I owe those years of rewarding employment and enjoyable lunches first to Justice Marjory D. Fields, now retired from the bench, who gave me my initial position, and then to Joe F., who offered invaluable assistance when the ground shifted out from under me.  I am forever grateful to both of them.

By the way, congratulations to Monte Wasch, formerly married to one of the people named in the paragraph above, with another letter to the editor of the Sunday book review published yesterday.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017
Stony Brook Steve, Paul D., a recent transplant from Rochester, NY, and I went to Red Farm, 2170 Broadway, for lunch.  It has a rough-hewn interior, which might resemble a Chinese barn or even an American barn, if I could even tell the difference.  It features somewhat uncommon dim sum at somewhat uncommonly high prices.  The quality of the food is generally high as well, but I am uncomfortable when dim sum starts to add up to what you would pay for real food.

We paid $33 each to share Gold Coin Scallion Pancakes with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Katz’s Pastrami Egg Roll, Crunchy Vegetable & Peanut Dumplings, Five Flavor Chicken Dumplings, Crispy Duck & Crab Dumplings, and Pan-Fried Lamb Dumpling Shooters.  Most of the dishes were accompanied by a unique and especially tasty sauce.  Still?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Time really seems to be flying.  Soon, it will be 2020.

Thursday, January 5, 2017
I have stated that I am turning increasingly to fiction and sports in order to endure or at least be distracted from the incoming regime of the clown.  Tonight, after the Upper West Side's Power Couple drove up to Massachusetts to visit the second and third generation, Grandpa Alan accompanied Daddy David and the two boychiks to a hockey game between the Boston University Terriers and the Union College Dutchmen at the very well appointed Boston University ice hockey rink.  The skill level was no worse than displayed at some National Hockey League games.  More important, my attention was successfully, if temporarily, distracted from our politics.  

Now, I am looking forward to the U.S. National Collegiate Ice Carving Championships at Frankenmuth, Michigan, later this month.  Then, there is the spring schedule of the CCNY swim team.  And warm weather will see the return of the Broadway Show League Co-ed Softball season in Central Park.  This all might make for a brighter future.

Friday, January 6, 2017
I am reading The Silent Man by Alex Berenson, one in a series of thrillers about an undisciplined CIA agent.  It was published in 2009.  Here is an excerpt from chapter 11 (my electronic version paginates only within chapters), with our hero looking around a glitzy Moscow nightclub:
The worldwide cult of fast money spent stupidly.  The worldwide cult of trying too hard.  Moscow, Rio, Los Angeles, Tokyo, New York, London, Shanghai -- the story was the same everywhere.  The same overloud music, the same over promoted brand names, the same fake tits, about as erotic as helium balloons.  Everywhere an orgy of empty consumption and bad sex.  Las Vegas was the cult's world headquarters, Donald Trump its patron saint.