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. http://forward.com/fast-forwa
rd/370514/watch-old-jewish-lef ties-sing-the-internationale-i n-yiddish/
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.