Saturday, May 27, 2017


Monday, May 22, 2017
Calista Gingrich?  Calista Gingrich!
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This weekend's real estate section took an interesting view of New York City real estate  -- by subway stop.  What's the difference in rent for a typical one-bedroom apartment up and down the line?

This is based on a detailed look at the entire  city's subway/rent nexus.   I could spend hours staring at this, unless I take my medication.
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This test compares to the Saturday crossword puzzle, the hardest of the week.  It proved two things to me -- how much I misuse language and how accepting I am of such misuse.   

Tuesday, May 23, 2017
While we seem to laugh a lot lately, it mostly takes the form of wry snickers.   "Can you believe that?"  "He said what?" "Not again."  

Tonight, by contrast, the Upper West Side's Power Couple and our dear companions Mr. & Mrs. Smithtown enjoyed a couple of hours of hearty laughter without any reference direct or indirect to any U.S. President, impeached or impeachable.  We saw "The Play That Goes Wrong," a farce imported from London, full of slamming doors, stuck doors, doors that open themselves, and doors that fall off their hinges.  It was a sucess not just because of the overarching silliness of the work, but because of the surgical precision of the cast in pulling it off.  These were masterful buffoons, which maybe brings us back to politics after all.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Usually, I report on events after the fact, however, this time I can give you ample notice of something that you don't want to miss.  You can rush out now and get your Greyhound ticket in order to be in the Holy Land by the end of next week for the Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl, an all-you-can-eat ice cream festival, to be held June 1-3 at Bryant Park, adjacent to the New York Public Library.  

The event raises funds for pediatric and adult cancer care and research and, truth be told, will also be held in Boston the following week.  The link provides all the details about the New York event.

Thursday, May 25, 2017
Right now, the nutsiness and craziness in Washington overshadows almost all else, but the following obituary brought back a concern that never really goes away -- racial justice.

Very simply, Barbara Smith (she added Conrad to avoid confusion with another performer) was removed as a lead in an opera before it opened at the University of Texas, because she was black.  That was in 1957, during my lifetime and many of your's.  

I sent a copy of the obituary to a former law school professor of mine, a brilliant man with fabulous credentials, who has been an eloquent voice for conservatism for almost 30 years.  Along with a wide range of topics that he has explored in leading journals, he remains fixated on the "relentless focus on race and ethnicity in [college] admissions, and at times even more so in faculty hiring."  He has taken his own background as the son of the chairman of an investment banking firm who then attended Phillips Exeter Academy, Harvard College, Oxford University and Harvard Law School as a sign of pure merit.  There are no Barbara Smiths in his world.   
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Five members of the Boyz Club helped me celebrate my 14th wedding anniversary today at Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street.  As a tribute to my absent young bride, I thought that I would record each dim sum dish as it hit the table.   However, the pace was too fast and furious and I am only able to provide summary data.  We consumed 17 items at $3.50 each, a deal that you won't get on weekends.  With beverages and a generous tip, as always, we spent $13 each.  I can hardly wait until next year.
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There was a moment at lunch that caused me serious concern.  Jon Silverberg, connoisseur of Chinese food, black-and-white movies, and bluegrass music shocked me by announcing that he doesn't like ice cream and only eats it three or four times a year.  I've known Jon for over 25 years and yet this was a complete surprise to me.  Had I known earlier, I would have definitely staged an intervention.  Now, at best, I may organize a prayer vigil.  

Friday, May 26, 2017
While yesterday was our 14th wedding anniversary, we waited until today to celebrate.  Accordingly, Stony Brook Steve and I went to Ben's Best Delicatessen, 96-40 Queens Boulevard, Rego Park, for lunch, where we shared a #9, corned beef, pastrami, rolled beef, sweet pepper and cole slaw on rye bread (inevitably) ($21.95).  Ben's, in support of the local community, names its special sandwiches after prominent personalities and enterprises.  Our sandwich honored Farber, Rosen & Kaufman, a nearby law firm.  In the past, our dear friend Michael Ratner had a sandwich named for him, turkey, pastrami and chopped liver, as I recall.   Michael, always the gentleman, bears no resentment for being replaced by a municipal officehoIder.  I still don't know of a better Kosher delicatessen in all of the Holy Land.
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Having gotten the sentimental portion of our anniversary celebration out of the way by visiting Chinatown and Ben's, I took America's Favorite Epidemiologist to dinner at Print, 683 Eleventh Avenue, a new restaurant planted amid the showrooms of almost every major extant automobile brand.  It is a lovely place, with a contemporary decor and very attentive service.  It boasts of its locavore character, but I did not allow that to interfere with my enjoyment.

We shared an asparagus flan ($17), accompanied by morrel mushrooms, a brilliant dish.  I had roasted duck ($31), the breast in quarter-inch slices and the leg and thigh intact.  It was not a great duck, but it was a very good duck.  The entire experience was of a very high quality and you can buy a Toyota right next door.

No doubt Print's desserts would have measured up, but I led us to Gotham Market, 600 Eleventh Avenue, to enjoy, in Jon Silverberg's absence, the superior ice cream at Aspen Hills Creamery.  My young bride had a cup of pistachio, judging it fabulous.  I over indulged by having a large cup containing dark chocolate ice cream and bourbon brown sugar ice cream with homemade maple cookie dough (given a name that eludes me).  It speaks for itself.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Washington Flu?

Monday, May 15, 2017
"Oslo," the imagined recreation of the events leading to the Israeli-Palestinian agreement of 1993, which I found thrilling, is up for a Tony award as the best Broadway play of the season.  Clyde Haberman, CCNY '62 and the Jerusalem correspondent for the New York Times during that period, discusses the play in light of his own recollections, a very worthy read.

By the way, Clyde's daughter Maggie is now one of the chief Washington correspondents for the New York Times.  I'll have to ask Clyde if she liked roller coasters as a child.
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Henry Chung just died.  He brought hot and spicy Hunan cuisine to the United States, opening Hunan Restaurant on Kearney Street in San Francisco in 1974.  I remember eating there several times in the 1970s and 1980s, most memorably with a business colleague whose mostly bald head erupted with perspiration as he plowed through one dish after another of the incendiary cuisine. 
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Speaking of food, and shouldn't we always be?  Berlin, Germany is proving to be one of the rare European capitals where Jews feel relatively comfortable these days.  Both Israelis and Russian Jews have sought it out in contrast to their hectic homelands.  This article describes the culinary angle to this demographic movement.

However, it starts off on an extremely provocative note: "Beige, boiled and usually packed in a gelatinous goo, gefilte fish is not the sort of dish that typically excites foodies."  While that is a fair description of the packaged product, clearly the ethnically ambiguously named Lindsay Gellman did not have an Eastern European grandmother who made gefilte fish from scratch, often beginning with the live whitefish, carp or pike swimming in the family bathtub.  That was a treat for any foodie; witness how the French tart it up with butter and cream, losing the safe haven of a parve designation, and call it quenelles.  

I have found only one laudatory exception to our grandmothers' traditional labor of love, that is the deep fried gefilte fish that Aunt Judi serves every Passover.  While she claims to purchase it, unlike all the other homemade delectables that cover her seder table, I'll always credit it to her in gratitude.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017
I had a working lunch today with Toni Rabin, event planner supérieure.  For convenience sake, we met at Metro Diner, 2641 Broadway, and I was delightfully surprised by the experience.  It sits across from the deserted Metro movie theater, where I could be found in the balcony as a swooning college freshman.  The diner is a bit bigger than similar urban outposts, but nothing to compare to the sprawling chrome and brass covered suburban installations with their four-pound, plastic-laminated, illustrated menus.      

At the table, Metro made a strong first impression with complimentary cole slaw and real sour pickles that any Kosher delicatessen would be proud of.  I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich on baguette, packed with thick slices of fresh mozzarella and sweet peppers ($14.95).  The fat sandwich may properly be regarded as excellent, even without considering the good quality of the French fries accompanying it.  

What might have been a mundane, forgettable meal, except for Toni's company, turned into a special treat.  It's also worth mentioning that we were not rushed at the height of the lunch hour, although we sat with papers in front of us long after the plates were cleared.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Pio Pio operates several local Peruvian restaurants featuring rotisserie chicken.  So, I was surprised when Stony Brook Steve and I entered the restaurant at 604 Tenth Avenue (a storefront without an address, looking more like a nail salon from the outside) and found something other than a simple chicken joint.  The layout was deceptive.  Behind a small front room was a very long bar followed by a narrow corridor that leads to a balcony overlooking a very large room one story below.  And, this strange layout was almost full at 2 in the afternoon.  Maybe Peruvians have a different lunch hour or don't go to work on Wednesdays.

Not only were the premises much more expansive than I first imagined, the menu offered a broad look at Peruvian cuisine.  There were ceviches and camarones and anticuchos and salchipapa (a large plate of sliced frankfurters and French fries that Steve ordered for $6, an Incan answer to Nathan's).  I had their chicken, half for $9, with a side of rice and beans for $5.  Together it made for a delicious meal.  However, the chicken alone would not have been enough because this was a small bird.  On the other hand, sharing half a pitcher of sangria ($18) also made me more forgiving. 

Afterwards, we headed to St. Luke's Theatre, 308 West 46th Street, a quintessential Off-Broadway venue, to hear a reading of "In a Round-About Way," a new play by Kim Sykes, someone worthy of a paragraph of superlatives, but constrained by time and space, I will simply call a wonderful human being.  Her work is an imaginary encounter between Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave who actually had been a seamstress at the White House.
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My brother dug up the following article, which provides a fascinating history of baseball cards as background to a major legal case about the right of publicity, the control of their image by professional athletes.  It's perfect reading for us pedants.   

Thursday, May 18, 2017
A note to fans of the New York Mets: The team has been taken over by the New York Rangers, now out of playoff contention.  Despite the dissimilarities in equipment, rules and physical settings, the inability to win when leading late in the game has been easily transferred from one sport to the other.
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Psychiatrists have reopened debate on the "Goldwater Rule," a professional constraint on diagnosing public figures (politicians) without direct examination.  This seems to be a natural consequence of the behavior of you-know-who.  But, we don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind's blowing.

Rather, I am concerned about the role to be played by ophthalmologists and audiologists in diagnosing and treating Ryan-McConnell Disease, the inability to see and hear what is going on in front of them.  Or, is it a matter for a speech therapist -- how to get up and open a mouth?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Back Talk

Monday, May 8, 2017
In 1992, I said something so stupid out loud that I still shudder when I think about it, even though the people around me at the time seemed to forget it soon thereafter.  Recently, I went further, speaking and acting in a disgraceful manner not likely to be soon forgotten nor easily forgiven.   
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It's interesting that Representative Jodey C. Arrington, Republican of Texas, defended work mandates at a congressional hearing for food stamps by quoting the Bible: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”  How many Republicans in Congress therefore should be starving as a result of their performance during the Obama administration?  
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In the 1950s and early 1960s, CCNY and the other local municipal colleges operated under a speakers' ban, specifically excluding leaders of the American Communist Party from speaking on campus.  Political activism in those day was almost exclusively left-wing and the speaker ban was the frequent subject of protest, typically student government resolutions in opposition.  In my rise to second tier prominence in campus affairs, I was the chairman of a nearly inert speakers' forum.  One evening, the president of student government called me to announce that the speakers' ban was lifted and that Benjamin Davis, then secretary of the Communist Party, would appear under my involuntary sponsorship.  Davis came a few days later and spoke without imperiling the city, the state or the federal government.

Today's campus speech controversies have seemingly turned the issue inside out.  We in New York, as well as the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley in 1964-65, fought an administration, usually in league with local politicians, that restricted speech on campus.  Where there was violence, it came in Berkeley from the authorities arresting almost 800 students in the middle of the night on   December 4, 1964.  Frankly, back in New York, we never drew the numbers or the heat.  

Now, instead of oppression from the top down, free speech on campus is being occasionally infringed by threats and actual violence from the ground up, as it were.  What was once an exercise in political theory has been replaced by issues of crowd control.    

Ironically, Benjamin Davis's actual appearance at CCNY drew almost no audience and, unlike some of today's pot stirrers, received no payment.  My advice to protesters -- Stay away; ignore the provocation; produce your own event; turn your back; don't take the bait.  Let the rotted out tree fall in the forest, unheard.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Michael Ratner and I had lunch at Szechuan Garden, 21 West 39th Street, one of several locations of a local chain.  This Szechuan Garden had its closely-positioned tables fully occupied throughout the lunch hour.  Maybe the other patrons had better luck or made wiser choices, because we wound up with well-prepared, very expensive food without much character.  We started with spicy sesame noodles ($5.95), the only special thing that we ate.  The prawns with spicy garlic sauce ($25.95) consisted of some big, delicious prawns at the extravagant cost of about $5 each.  The shredded duck with scallions ($20.95) had much more vegetables than duck.  Like some prospective dates when I was still single, this restaurant was GU, geographically undesirable, too far from Chinatown.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017
I went to Citifield to see the Mets play the San Francisco Giants.  I came away with a healthy glow from sitting in the sun all afternoon and deep disappointment in the result.

Thursday, May 11, 2017
Stony Brook Steve and I went to Shorty Tang Noodles, 98 8th Avenue, operated by the late Shorty's grandson.  Shorty is credited with introducing/creating/popularizing cold sesame noodles, one of my favorite dishes.

Shorty held forth at Hwa Yuan, 42 East Broadway, which opened in 1968 to great acclaim.  The building converted to a branch of  the Bank of China after his death, but now is about to be reopened by family members as the Hwa Yuan restaurant.  The noodle shop is physically distinct, but   expressly shares Shorty's legacy.  However, when it comes to the cold sesame noodles served at the noodle shop today ($8), the rickshaw has passed by.  They were ordinary, served in a modest portion.  They didn't have the spicy tingle of the noodles at Szechuan Garden and never approached the classic peanut buttery flavor of the noodles at Shanghai Asian Manor, 21 Mott Street (September 25, 2015), possibly the best in the Western Hemisphere.  

We also had a good, greasy scallion pancake ($5); sticky rice with short ribs ($8), which seemed to have substituted yams for rice; and (hot) noodles with Peking spicy (in name only) sauce ($10), made with chopped pork.  Service was very good, in a sleek, tastefully decorated space.  The 14th Street stop of the A, C and E trains is right outside and I would suggest staying on the train one more stop to West 4th Street, changing for the B or D train Brooklyn-bound, going two stops to Grand Street, putting you at Heaven's Gate.      

Friday, May 12, 2017
I cringed when I read today: "It's often said that the most important qualities in a chief executive are character and judgment."  Was this another probe into the evident deficiencies of the leader of the Free World, the most powerful man on Earth, the man with his finger on the nuclear button?  Well, this time we have a moment's respite from contemplating the one who tells it like it isn't.  The article focused on the chief executive of Barclay's Bank, who has made only "two missteps that have resulted in shareholder protests and investigations."  Amateur! 
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The attached is provided in case your life has been missing a picture of a man with a Richard Nixon tattoo on his back.

Sunday, May 7, 2017


Monday, May 1, 2017
It may not be appropriate on May Day, the traditional holiday of rebellion, to refer to F. Scott Fitzgerald's comment that the very rich are different from you and me.  It first appeared in 1925 in a short story entitled "The Rich Boy," and evoked a famous rejoinder from Ernest Hemingway, "Yes, they have more money," in Esquire Magazine in 1936.  

I never doubted Fitzgerald's insight and thought it wiser than Hemingway's.  I don't know whether the very rich are different before they become very rich, or if they become different when they become very rich.  This all came to mind this weekend in an article in the New York Times real estate section about strategies for selling high end real estate.  "To introduce the sale of an $11.75 million, four-bedroom penthouse in Midtown, Tara King-Brown and Amy Williamson, two associate brokers from the Corcoran Group, ditched the evening cocktail party, the industry’s tried-and-tested event, and instead held a morning meditation class in the building’s common-area yoga room."  Imagine that.  Close your eyes.  Breathe deep.  Sign a check.  That never would have worked on Pitkin Avenue in Brooklyn.

In line with the traditional view of May Day, Paul Hecht, the prominent thespian, sent me the following clip, which seems to contain every living Communist in Israel a decade ago.
From appearances, it is likely that the room would be almost empty today.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Art Spar and I went to Excellent Dumpling House, 165 West 23rd Street, the second version of the Chinatown stalwart at 111 Lafayette Street.  It's about twice as large as the original, with room between tables that cannot be found downtown.  It also operates at about 75% of capacity at lunchtime, while the Chinatown edition rarely has a seat open at the mostly communal tables until late in the day.  

Most important, the food was good.  The menu is relatively simple, only familiar parts of familiar animals.  We shared steamed pork dumplings ($7.50 for 7); steamed crabmeat and shrimp dumplings ($6.95 for 5); pastrami wrapped scallion pancake ($10.95); fried Hong Kong noodles (lo mein) with chicken and shrimp ($13.95).  The scallion pancake, almost identical to what La Salle Dumpling Room serves (April 28, 2017), only swapping pastrami for beef, was especially good, but the absence of mustard should be addressed.  Prices, as you can see, are much more midtown than Chinatown.  

The newspaper today contained a disturbing story that is becoming increasingly familiar: "Police in Texas Change Account in Officer's Fatal Shooting of 15-Year-Old,"  page A12 of the New York Times local edition.  A suburban Dallas cop's claim that he shot at a car that was approaching him in an "aggressive manner" was contradicted by the local police chief, who said that a video showed the car moving away.  The dead youth was a passenger in the car, a good student and a good athlete.   What intrigued me was the missing information -- the color of the cop and the color of the teenager, no reference, no inference.  Consider the possibilities: White cop kills white teenager; white cop kills black teenager; black cop kills white teenager; black cop kills black teenager.  Each version sets up its own drama.  Follow ups, unfortunately, reported the unfortunately predictable   details.  I must note that my initial reaction to the missing elements says a lot about me, how I have been conditioned to stories such as this.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017
The Upper West Side's Power Couple headed to New Orleans for the second weekend of the annual Jazz & Heritage Festival.  Other than having our request for seats across the aisle from each other, our favored flight pattern, ignored, placing a hefty young man between us, the trip down was uneventful.  Then, we landed and stepped into a logistical nightmare.  Hundreds of people stood on the taxicab line, without one taxicab in sight.  So, I made the decision to buy tickets for the airport shuttle, undeterred by the warning of a 30-minute wait.  Well, it wasn't a 30-minute wait; it was a 90-minute wait to get on a van.  Having landed on time at 5:30, we arrived at our hotel at 8:30.

Several times during the delay, I spoke to Abby, the pleasant reservationist at Marcello's, 715 St. Charles Street, a long-established, family-run Italian restaurant, each time pushing back our reservation.  We finally settled on a 9 o'clock reservation, which we kept with very rewarding results.  We ate in the high-ceilinged front room, with large windows framing the street cars frequently passing by.  The back room had hundreds of wine bottles on open racks, feeling like a museum of the grape.  

While the menu held few surprises, execution was of a high quality.  For instance, the Caesar salad ($9) was simply excellent, even if no anchovies stuck there little heads up.  A ragu of wild boar and boar sausage accompanied my fettuccine ($25).  America's Favorite Epidemiologist had eggplant Palermo ($16), discs of breaded eggplant, served with angel hair pasta dressed with oil and garlic.  Instead of dessert, we drank and forgot the inconvenience upon arrival earlier.   

Thursday, May 4, 2017
We spent the after at the fairgrounds, normally a racetrack, enjoying a wide variety of music, blues, gospel, zydeco, rock'n'roll and Mardi Gras Indians, with their elaborate, handmade costumes.  

Heavy rains for days left pools of slippery mud, but that evening our hotel kindly provided old towels to clean our shoes with, leaving only the prospect of some modest dry cleaning upon our return to the Holy Land.

Dinner was at the Bon Ton Café, 401 Magazine Street, claiming to be the oldest Cajun (not Creole) restaurant in New Orleans.  Historical accuracy aside, they did a very good job.  After the deeply experienced waiter explained the difference between jambalaya and etouffee (both $27), rice cooked in with the crawfish or served on the side, I chose the etouffee and enjoyed it thoroughly.  The meal ended with their deservedly famous "Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce and Butter Pecan Ice Cream à la mode."  What nerve endings the bottle of Pinot Grigio consumed with dinner left unaddressed were warmly saturated by the whiskey sauce. 

Friday, May 5, 2017
Today was warm and sunny, some of the mud at the fairgrounds drying up for better footing.  The schedule presented a dilemma for me, however.  First an organizational note.  The event, labeled Jazz Fest, is conducted at 11 venues scattered over the fairgrounds amid   countless stands offering food, beverages, artifacts, T-shirts and recordings.  Performances begin at about 11:30 AM and continue to near 7 PM, staying in daylight for safety and logistical reasons.  Each venue had some programming consistency, so you might stay rooted to one spot through the day if you wished to focus on one genre or roam stage to stage for variety.

The last show on today's Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage (fais do-do translated as either Cajun dance party or hush-a-bye baby, but the context dictates the former), running 6:00-7:00 PM, is Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas (the finest small musical ensemble since the Modern Jazz Quarter).  However, we have hard to get dinner reservations at Pêche Seafood Grill, 800 Magazine Street, for 7:30 PM.   What to do?  What to do?  

Salvation came at 2:50 PM, when Jeffrey Broussard & the Creole Cowboys took the Fais Do-Do stage for a 55 minute set of zydeco music.  While not at the imperial level of Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas, they did justice to the genre and left me satisfied enough to get to dinner in a timely fashion.

Other than the noise level in the packed restaurant,  Pêche provided an excellent experience.  We shared hush puppies ($6), not usually a Sabbath evening dinner staple.  I ordered two small plates, although the portions could have passed as nearly main courses (each $12) -- ground shrimp with lo mein in a spicy Szechuan sauce and "fish sticks," delicately fried pieces of a sweet, white fish with aioli.  My young bride swooned over grilled tuna covered in an olive tapenade ($27).  If I had to miss Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas, Pêche made it worthwhile.

Saturday, May 6, 2017
Before our evening flight home, we enjoyed brunch with a Brooklyn-born first cousin and her husband, now entrenched in NOLA, and a Baton Rouge second cousin and her husband.  We untangled some of our familial ties, and delightfully tangled some others.

Note -- We had excellent accommodations at Le Pavillon Hotel, 833 Poydras Street, which lacked only one amenity, a business center or public computers.  Therefore, these ruminations come to you a bit later than usual.