Friday, February 24, 2017

Remember When?

Monday, February 20, 2017
We met with old friends this weekend, none older (in duration) than Arthur Dobrin, whom I've known since early boyhood.  Arthur is 18 months younger than I am and, until I went away to graduate school, we always lived across the street from each other in two different neighborhoods, not counting his short hitch in the army between high school and college.  

Recalling early memories, Arthur said that, in the past, I told him that I remembered when he came home from the hospital as an infant.  I contended that was wrong two different ways.  First, I denied ever having said that to him, because, second, I don't remember witnessing any such event.  Moreover, I doubt that anyone can recall anything coherent from that early in childhood.  With that, Burt G. piped up that he remembers his first birthday party, with his crib placed in the middle of the room and adults swarming around.  Now, Burt is a very sober guy, but I don't believe him either.  Fake news?

An article in the travel section this weekend evoked a pleasant memory for me, well within my mental span.

The New York Times found some interesting new restaurants in Tbilisi, Georgia, not a spot appearing prominently on "must-see" lists.  While I doubt that I will ever get to Tbilisi, I have a fond memory of a great Georgian meal at the home of Genya and Israel Dilman in Brooklyn, over 20 years ago.  I met their sons Mark and Alex soon after the family came to the US from Tbilisi and they invited me for dinner.  After all this time, I recall a wonderful meal of native Georgian and Russian Jewish food, even the latter bearing only slight resemblance to what I was familiar with.  The highlight for me was a creamy chicken dish (Chicken Bazhe), the sauce surprisingly made from ground walnuts, a staple of Georgian cuisine, no dairy ingredients.  There are recipes on the Internet, but I don't think that anyone can approach Genya Dilman's version.

In spite of the example of Whitaker Chambers, most of the American cases of ideological migration from left to right, to my mind, seem to have been little Jewish boys, who had troubling encounters with Jewish girls and/or African-American men.  An exception to that was Michael Novak, "a Roman Catholic social philosopher who abandoned the liberal politics he espoused in the 1960s to make the theological and moral case for capitalism in a series of widely discussed books," according to his obituary today.  I recall reading him on both sides of the divide, but nothing will stay with me longer than his claim that "Capitalism forms morally better people than socialism does."  That may be true, but the gestation period seems to exceed the normal human lifespan.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017
I am so pleased by the thoughtfulness of friends and family as I reach the age of the New York Times crossword puzzle, although I will never show as much imagination.  Of particular note is this gift from Dr. Evelyn A.L., the sanest psychiatrist I have ever met. 

Of course, since I am not one to hold a grudge for more than a generation or two against a country that turned desperate Jews away from its borders, I gladly added the cheese to my refrigerator collection, pushing me even further in the direction of bourgeois respectability.  

Today's paper contains a full page advertisement for the 2017 winners of Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowships for "early-career scholars."  The list includes a Smith and a Green, but no Jones, Brown, Miller, Johnson, Wilson, or Thomas, for that matter no Cohen, Levy or Schwartz.  Notable, however, are the presence of Fereydoun Hormozdiari, Silviu Pufu, Lei Qi, Amir Ali Ahmadi, Ilias Diakonikolas, among others whose ancestors probably missed the Mayflower and even came long after Ellis Island closed.  Now, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave is governed by someone who is afraid of scholars and immigrants alike.

If you have the time and stomach, I recommend that you read One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon, by Tim Weiner, published in 2015.  All known tapes and documents are now public and Weiner uses them tellingly.  The parallels with today's White House quickly jump out at you, although there is an interesting difference.  Nixon was secretive, deliberately misdirecting friend and foe in critical policy matters.  Our minority president, by contrast, boisterously exercises his seventh grade vocabulary randomly, sometimes with malice, rarely with forethought.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Important hockey game last night, Rangers vs. Canadiens (that's the French way for the Montreal team).  I had the good company of Rob T., who began the evening with me at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 208 West 38th Street, the natural place to eat if you are going to Madison Square Garden.  The results on the ice, alas, were unsatisfactory.

Thursday, February 23, 2017 
The Boyz Club gathered at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, celebrating a patch of spring-like weather.  We shared fried won tons, spare ribs, duck chow fun, shrimp with lobster sauce over shrimp fried rice (our special creation), beef with scallions, and eggplant in garlic sauce; a little over $16 each.  What more can you ask?

Friday, February 24, 2017
Well, Coretta Scott King, Elizabeth Warren and Corey Booker were right; Jeff Sessions is a stinker.


  1. Finally, we have the correct number to attribute to your age!

  2. The said psychiatrist enjoyed the particularly nutty essence of the Gotthelf specimen... :-)

  3. "Seventh-grade vocabulary?" You are a generous man, Alan.