Saturday, April 22, 2017

Square Peg Seeks Square Hole

Monday, April 17, 2017
I was moved by a comment in this short essay about mathematics.    The author describes his engagement with KenKen, a kind of puzzle involving putting numbers in boxes, "when . . . all the pieces fit nicely together and you get this rush of harmony and order."  I get that same feeling from my regular bouts with crossword puzzles and Free Cell, a computerized card game, as well as my occasional games of KenKen, Sudoko and their variants.  For a moment, the complex and weird world assumes an order, a pattern, a rhythm that you can move to fluidly.  Without these moments and the accompanying feeling of accomplishment, I think that my ability to deal with the many daily stresses and strains would be substantially diminished.  I cherish the reassurance, if only for a moment, that things can fit, that there are answers.

Which brings me to this past Saturday's crossword puzzle, 43 Down: School closing?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Sundown brought the end to Passover, 8 full days, not Lent's 40 days or Ramadan's month-long duration.  Each has its own guidelines; Passover excludes broad varieties of food and requires certification of those allowed; Lent requires the giving up of luxuries; Ramadan involves daily fasting during daylight hours.  Religious services attach to at least part of each holiday.

Sundown, the usual beginning or end of Jewish holy days, was officially 7:39 PM in New York City today, a point at which the New York Rangers held a 1-0 lead over the Montreal Canadiens in the fourth game of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Just as the journey across the Sinai Desert was perilous for the Israelites, the Rangers faced difficult moments until they eventually succeeded by a score of 2-1.  The Passover story contained in the Haggadah, read at each of the two seders that begin the holiday, directs us to see ourselves as though we left Egypt, to experience the feelings of slavery and liberation that characterize Exodus.  Well, it might not be the same thing, but I was at Madison Square Garden for the game. Amen.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Wednesday is the day that the New York Times includes a food section in the daily paper, including restaurant reviews and recipes.  Today, it has a feature on the typical day of a local food cart vendor.

The article claims that there are "more than 10,000 people, most of them immigrants, who make a living selling food on the city’s sidewalks: pork tamales, hot dogs, rolled rice noodles, jerk chicken."  To celebrate this, I had lunch today by Skyway Halal Foods, west side of Broadway between West 70th Street and West 71st Street.  Actually, the use of a name is pointless to identify the food cart, just as the old-fashioned shuls in Brooklyn were known simply by location, such as, the Sutter Avenue shul or the Fountain Avenue shul, regardless of any name that might appear on or above the door.  

In this neighborhood, I patronize the guys between 70th and 71st or the guys at the northwest corner of West 67th Street and Broadway.  The problem they present, however, is the lack of a place to sit down and eat.  My typical order is a combination (chicken and a hybrid beef/lamb mixture) over rice and chopped lettuce with a pita bread on the side.  This costs $6 or $7, maybe $1 more in dense business areas.  Add $1 for a Diet Coke and I usually head to a bench on the islands separating northbound and southbound traffic on Broadway.  

It would have been particularly interesting if the two guys in the cart between 70th and 71st were Egyptian so soon after I celebrated my flight from Egypt, but I only know that they are Muslim, maybe from South Asia, not even Arabs then.  Since Islam emerged thousands of years after the Exodus, there were no hard feelings on either side.

A new book about Hillary Clinton's campaign has just been published and the   review was very illuminating.

The book is entitled "Shattered," written by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, who have written favorably about Clinton in the past.  After reading the review, I rushed over to my New York Public Library app to line up for an electronic copy of the book.  Well, I beat the rush.  In fact, I beat the library to even offering the book electronically.  Instead, I found that there are twelve other books entitled "Shattered" available for electronic distribution, ranging from a tale of Atticus O'Sullivan, the Iron Druid, "whose sharp wit and sharp sword have kept him alive as he's been pursued by a pantheon of hostile deities" (Kevin Hearne, author) to a novel about criminal psychologist Dr. Sarah Jacobs and the New Orleans underworld figure Jax Fontaine, who "may be worlds apart, but when they're skin to skin, nothing matters but the heat between them" (Cynthia Eden, author).  I'm sure that a fascinating article in The Atlantic or The New Yorker could result from reading, comparing and contrasting them all.  

Back to Hillary's "Shattered."  I was able to reserve a print copy, along with half of the registered Democrats in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island.  NB -- Brooklyn and Queens each have their own library system.

Thursday, April 20, 2017    
Every so often, I forget my roots and aim for a bit of respectability.  Today, I led Stony Brook Steve and Michael Ratner to Pinch Chinese, 177 Prince Street, a restaurant located in a neighborhood now of fashionable boutiques and exclusive galleries, once simply the lower end of Greenwich Village.  Pinch has garnered some very good press and appeared on some prestigious lists.  I found the long rectangular room very attractive, with a bold mural against one wall, red painted chairs on one side and black opposite.  However, lunch may not be the time to really enjoy this place.

A 4" by 11" card is offered to each diner, with a cup of pencils on the table to mark your choice among a very simple set of alternatives.  Three "Mains" set your base price: Taiwanese beef noodle soup ($18), Chicken Sao Bing Sandwich ($18) or vegetarian fried rice ($13), with an optional pork chop at $5.  Then there is a choice of dumplings and salad.  I started with the chicken sandwich, which actually came last, and chose pan fried beef dumplings, very good, and cauliflower and scallion salad, not what I usually dream about, but more desirable than seaweed and tofu, for instance.  Extra dumplings, $5 glasses of iced tea, and $7 half glasses of wine were the only other items on the menu.

My sandwich was good, strips of chicken, shiitake mushrooms, and scallions between two flaky, sesame-coated pieces of flatbread.  The problem was getting it into your mouth, as the floppy flatbread couldn't stand up to the contents.  Eventually, the chopsticks (it would have been cowardly to ask for knife and fork) were used to pick pieces off the plate.  The  on-line and professional reviews of Pinch describe dishes that obviously cannot be seen by light of day, so consider that when headed this way.  

Friday, April 21, 2017
The day started murky, but I anticipated going to my first Mets game of the season with the 48th President of the United States, William Franklin Harrison.   He is only 16 now, but his name alone is worth 200 electoral votes.  Before heading out to the ballpark, we went to Hell's Chicken, 641 Tenth Avenue, an establishment focusing on the Korean method of frying chicken.  Service was very attentive in the long, narrow space, just one storefront wide.  Of course, we were the only customers at 5 o'clock, but I think that our waitress was pleased to have the chance to discuss living in New York after growing up in Seoul.  

William and I shared a 14 piece order of fried chicken, 8 wings and 6 drumsticks ($22, a couple of dollars cheaper at lunchtime).  We got two sauces with that, spicy soy garlic and spicy soy ginger and both lived up to their name.  We added sides of rice, $2 for white and $3 for brown.  The food was very good; it's worth returning to.  Additionally, the menu has a nice selection of Korean specialties that I would like to try, including japche, glass noodles that have thrilled me at other joints.  

[Answer] DOTEDU


  1. While waiting for a copy of "Shattered" to become available, I highly recommend Thomas Friedman's "Thank You for Being Late," if you haven't yet made time for reading it, as a continuation of your search for answers.