Friday, March 3, 2017

Left Coasting

Monday, February 27, 2017
An article printed yesterday asked people how much "it would take to cancel worry and bankroll their dreams."  The answers often ran to the tens of millions, an extravagant amount to me.  However, many respondents seemingly had dreams that included good works beyond providing for the care and comfort of their nearest and dearest.  

If you skip trying to compete with the Ford Foundation, what's your number?  We quickly (unscientifically and immodestly?) came up with $2 million, founded on dreams of deluxe travel.  Upon reflection though, I realized that we haven't set foot on another continent so far this year, because of lack of time not money.  While I am retired, America's Favorite Epidemiologist willingly continues to push the frontiers of knowledge.  Of course, these days the challenge generally is to stem the advancement of ignorance.  

The newspaper article referred to an academic paper that concluded that wealth tended to lessen sadness in daily life, but not necessarily increase happiness.

If the social psychologists are correct, I have a plan that would actually call for a modest expenditure guaranteed to both lessen sadness and increase happiness.  Purchase and play the following:

A) "The 2000 Year Old Man: The Complete History," from Amazon at $39.95.

B) "The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection," from Amazon at $38.99, includes The Cocoanuts/Animal Crackers/Monkey Business/Horse Feathers/Duck Soup.

C) "The Marx Brothers Collection," from Amazon at $33.98, includes A Night at The Opera/A Day at The Races/A Night in Casablanca/Room Service/At the Circus/Go West/The Big Store.  

D) "The Mel Brooks Collection," from Amazon at $31.49, includes Blazing Saddles/Young Frankenstein/Silent Movie/ Robin Hood: Men in Tights/To Be or Not to Be/History of the World, Part 1/The Twelve Chairs/High Anxiety.  

E) "W.C. Fields Comedy Favorites Collection," from Amazon at $11.82, includes International House/It's A Gift/You're Telling Me/The Old Fashioned Way/Man On The Flying Trapeze/Poppy/You Can't Cheat An Honest Man/My Little Chickadee/The Bank Dick/Never Give A Sucker An Even Break.

If this prescription fails to lessen sadness and increase happiness, take two aspirins and never call me.

Today, we boarded an airplane for a long flight, arriving in the foreign land of California.  Because of the time difference between the coasts, we were able to get to Palo Alto while there was still bright daylight.  Professor Nate then escorted us around the beautiful Stanford University campus.  I found only one flaw with the place; it was a long distance to the nearest subway.

We had dinner at Los Altos Grill, 223 3rd Street, Los Altos, a large, crowded pub.  When I noticed so many male couples with their heads close together, I thought that this was a gay-friendly place.  However, Professor Nate pointed out that here, in the heart of Silicon Valley, these guys were trying to agree on the terms of financing the next killer app.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017
A very busy day.  We had a great breakfast with Professor Nate at Crepevine, 367 University Avenue, Palo Alto.  In addition to enjoying the Petaluma scramble, eggs, slices of chicken apple sausage, mushrooms, spinach, provolone cheese, topped with salsa fresca, I spotted Bill Maher in front of the restaurant.  I mention that in tribute to Stony Brook Steve, who has the remarkable ability to recognize famous, near-famous and once-famous faces when we walk the streets of New York.  

We drove to Santa Cruz to have lunch with my grandnephew Tomas Gonzalez, a sophmore at UC Santa Cruz, and his plus one.  While we did not see the campus, the town offered some interesting contrasts -- a stunning Pacific coastline, a concentrated commercial center, and a lot of what can best be described as hoboes rather than homeless, cf.

For dinner, we met Margarita K. in San Francisco's financial district.  She is a lovely young woman, whom I first met as a four-year old, soon after she arrived in this country from Belarus.  She deftly handled Stuyvesant High School and Harvard University, and now lives and works in San Francisco.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017
I am catching up with the weekend newspapers that I brought along and, somehow, I have managed to find a quibble.  In the book review section, Marjorie Ingall, a respected author, discusses a novel where the teenage protagonist is "a student at a schmancy private school."  I contend that the only proper term would be "fancy schmancy private school."

While I'm sticking with the Mets and I'm sticking with the Rangers, my hometown loyalty was seriously challenged today when we went to City View Restaurant, 662 Commercial Street, San Francisco.  Don't let the name fool you.  It's on the ground floor of a small street between Chinatown and the financial district and it may be the best dim sum joint in what once was the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, including the Holy Land.

It is a bright, airy space with high ceilings, tastefully decorated with large Chinese panels and a mirror approximately 4' by 8'.  There are about 40 tables, small, medium and large.  Food carts move about efficiently, but you can also ask for almost any item from the standard repertoire.  It also offered individual portions of Peking duck and lettuce-wrapped minced chicken, along with its buns and dumplings.

I had baked BBQ pork buns, shrimp dumplings and siu mai to myself, half of the too small best scallion pancake that I have ever had, and pieces of the two different vegetable dumplings and the bean curd stuffed with mushrooms that my young bride chose for herself.  The food cost $32.55 and I paid for it gleefully.  

Jeanne F., Bronx High School of Science '59 and CCNY '63, joined us for dinner in spite of being erroneously listed in the necrology section of the latest City College alumni magazine.  Maybe they thought that living away from New York all these years was the functional equivalent of death.

We ate at Camino, 3917 Grand Avenue, Oakland, a "hot" restaurant that left us cool.  Consistent with its farm-to-table ethos, the room is barn-like, with rough hewn wooden furniture.  The menu, however, would have mystified Ma and Pa Kettle, featuring dishes that you never yearned for, always including one or more unnecessary ingredient.  Camino has no tipping, and social consciousness is further demonstrated by donating several dollars of each special cocktail choice to the LBGTQ cause.  Our waiter (really a waitress, but you don't say that anymore) was stymied by our order which included shared and individual dishes.  Our conviviality prevailed, however.  

Thursday, March 2, 2017
The current administration has added a new qualification to serve as a cabinet member, in addition to personal loyalty and ideological consistency -- the ability to lie under oath.

We caught up with America's Loveliest Nephrologist, the centerpiece of our visit, this morning.  She took us to Aunt Mary's Café, 4640 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland for a late breakfast.  Unlike Camino last night, Aunt Mary was loaded with things that you wanted to eat, such as chicken and waffles and corned beef hash.  I ordered the very interesting sounding "Hangtown fry-ttata" a bacon and spinach omelet, toped with deep-fried oysters and deep-fried fennel.  Aunt Mary would have had a winner had she stopped there.   However, the local tendency to potschke placed the omelet in a pool of Worcestershire sauce that overwhelmed the other flavors wherever they met.   Fortunately, I preceded the omelet with a bowl of grits, which elevated my mood almost to October 2016, averaging out the meal to nearly an acceptable level.

Joined by the Oakland Heartthrob, we went to dinner at Tamarindo Antojeria, 468 8th Street, Oakland, in response to my request for Mexican food.  It was a good choice, much more Mex than Tex-Mex.  We shared guacamole and empanadas de platano (empanadas filled with plantains and black beans); I had two small plates, both particularly good, tacos de camaron (3 small shrimp tacos) and mulitas (2 mini corn tortillas stuffed with grilled steak, melted cheese, guacamole and salsa).  The sangria, however, tasted nearly alcohol-free.   

Friday, March 3, 2017
General Charles de Gaulle allegedly said, "How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?"  This came to mind last night as we relocated to the third bedroom in four nights, each with a radically different television remote control.  I can understand variety in cheese, but why can't we all learn to live together and use the same television remote control?


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  2. I am deeply disappointed that Alan felt he could just ignore the derivation of the name of his breakfast dish...Hangtown being the mid 1800's colloquial name for Placerville, in the gold country, due to its reputation for many more hangings than your average burg...and speaking of left out, no "The Producers" in the Brooks movie collection? Shocking! Truth to tell, I have less of a grounding in Fields than would be optimal (I haven't caught up with 3 or 4 of the ones in that collection), and the price looks to be right, too...Thank you, Alan...

  3. If you can find it, "Ten from Your Show of Shows" on DVD - Sid Caesar and company - currently unavailable at Amazon.