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  What was once an exercise in political theory has been replaced by issues of crowd control.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.


  1. "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."
    What am I missing here? Is this a reference to the '92 and '16 presidential elections?

    1. Simply a confession of stupidity on my part.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. In the course of a long life, I suppose I have uttered a bon mot or said or done some things that were clever or witty, but I don't remember any of them. But every faux pas and every stupid or unintentionally offensive thing I've ever said or done is indelibly lodged in my memory, and at least daily, some passing thought or remark or event causes me to recollect one of them, bringing renewed feelings of shame and angry self-reproach. Would I could forget--short of dementia.