Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Past Is Present

Monday, July 24, 2017
We went to a pleasant brass quintet recital at Tanglewood on Saturday afternoon aimed at families with young children and/or old grandparents.  Afterwards, we headed to The Scoop, 51 Church Street, Lenox for an intermezzo.  This time cookie dough and salted caramel ice cream flavors seemed to predominate in our crowd.  However, I ate to a different drummer and had scoops of piña colada and Almond Joy, variations on a theme.  So, naturally, the question arises, "SoCo Creamery, Great Barrington or The Scoop, Lenox?" 

To aid in resolving this issue, we returned to SoCo Creamery Sunday night, after having dinner with Burt and Gerri at Tangiers Cafe, 286 Main Street, Great Barrington, which featured authentically spiced tagines at very modest prices.  For my after dinner treat, I had scoops of espresso cookie and black raspberry ice cream.  I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but the memory of The Scoop's piña colada lingers on.
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The week out of town has left me a lot to catch up with.  Allow me to go back to the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle of July 16th.  The clue for 34 across is Polish rolls.  Well, bialys are Polish rolls only if you believe that Bernie Sanders is "the son of a Polish immigrant."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Besides a lot of mail and old newspapers to be examined upon our return from the Berkshires last night was a telephone message from Shlomo, the widowed husband of my ex-wife, Ellen.  He and I had a long and friendly conversation in 2013 when I learned of her death from lung cancer.  I did not hesitate to return his call and he told me a strange story.  

He had received a telephone call a couple of days earlier from a stranger asking permission to rent the time share in Las Vegas that Ellen and I purchased in 1976.  What's wrong is that Ellen and I never purchased a time share in Las Vegas or anywhere else, and I certainly did not pursue such folly on my own at any time, at any place.  Adding to the mystery was how the caller reached Shlomo at an address and telephone number that Ellen did not share until about 18 years after the alleged 1976 transaction, and when she had also independently changed her last name in 1980, long before she remarried.  Further, Shlomo told me that the caller had my correct New York home telephone number, but had not yet called me.  I told Shlomo that he had my permission to rent the property and we would split the proceeds.  I await further developments.

Wednesday, July 26, 2
The following recipe not only features chocolate with chocolate, but requires no cooking, only some time in a refrigerator.
In case you are worried about how good it turned out, invite me over. 
. . .

The news of the opening of the uptown branch of Jing Fong, the Hong Kong-style dim sum palace, reached us in Great Barrington last week.  So, I made a date with Stony Brook Steve to have lunch there today, wondering if I had had too big a bowl of cereal for breakfast to allow room for maximum consumption.  No worry.  The sign on the door at the corner of West 78th Street and Amsterdam Avenue said "Soft opening, Dinner 5 PM - 10 PM."  A lot of good that did us at one o'clock in the afternoon.  We retreated to a nearby bagel shop, determined to dim our sum in the near future.  

Thursday, July 27, 2017
This afternoon, I was reminded of the classic recording by Oscar Brown, Jr., of "But I Was Cool," lyrics by Albert Collins.  It begins, 
"I've always lived by this golden rule,
Whatever happens 'don't blow your cool.'"

It happened as I entered an elevator at NYU Medical Center and walked into the seventh floor waiting room of the internal medicine practice, in lockstep with Steven Van Zandt a/k/a Little Stevie of the "E" Street Band and Silvio Dante, consigliere to Tony Soprano.  There was no mistaking him; he was in full Little Stevie mode, tight jeans, boots, floral shirt buttoned just above his navel and, most noticeably, a schmatte around his head, not unlike what a very orthodox Jewish woman would wear in the absence of a wig.

Ask him to stand still for a photograph?  Worse, a selfie with me?  But I was cool.

Friday, July 28, 2017
Today, I did what I have promised to do for years, search for the graves of my mother's parents, Joseph and Mollie Goldenberg, the name Goldenberg replacing Cherkowsky once they arrived at Ellis Island.  I was inspired by the expert genealogical research of Ittai Hershman and Stony Brook Steve, who prefers to operate behind a nom de blog.  In fact, I was very fortunate to be accompanied by Stony Brook Steve and my cousin Barbara Goldenberg Belovin Siegel on the trip to Mokom Sholom Cemetery, edging on the Brooklyn-Queens border in Ozone Park.  

It's an old cemetery with a somewhat random layout.  While Joan in the off-site office was able to confirm that my grandparents were buried there, Joseph in 1945 and Mollie in 1978, she had no information as to where to find them on the rambling grounds.  So, the three of us headed in different directions, guided only by my memory of a visit to my grandfather's grave in the 1960s (with my grandmother) in a very densely populated (?) section of the cemetery.  I expected to traipse the grounds for a couple of hours, setting a reasonable time limit on this warm, bright day.

However, about 15 minutes after we fanned out, Stony Brook Steve miraculously found the plot.  

Since my Hebrew language skills are about 60 years out of practice, I immediately sent photos to Ittai, who is as talented in languages as he is in research.  Jewish gravestones traditionally provide basic family lineage, something that we Goldenberg descendants lacked.  Here is what Ittai read:

Here Lies
A Woman of Valour
["Eyshet Chayil" Proverbs 31:10]
Our Dear Mother
Esther Malka
Daughter of Reb Yehuda Tzvi

Here Lies
Our Dear Father
A Humble and Honest Man ["Ish Tam Ve’Yashar" 
Genesis 25:27]
[Who] Feared God All His Days
Yoseph Son of Reb Aryeh Leib

(Reb is the equivalent of Mr., applied to a pious man.)   Now, I've taken one step further into the past, with the invaluable assistance of my friends.  Is there a better way to start the Sabbath, at least without ice cream?

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Away From Home

Monday, July 17, 2017
I'm sorry to have to report the untimely demise of a dear one.  Another Fork in the Road, 1215 Route 199, Milan, New York, a joint that properly could be called funky, has closed (July 10, 2015).  It had a ragtag collection of kitchen tables and chairs, a counter with half a dozen chrome stools, and a few broken sofas to hold you while waiting for a place to eat.  It was a very reliable spot for breakfast and lunch, about one mile off the Taconic Parkway, convenient if you were traveling to Rhinebeck, further north in the Hudson Valley or over to the Berkshires.  We discovered the sad news today as we headed to Housatonic, Massachusetts, to spend a week with our second and third generations in a large rented house with bedrooms and bathrooms to spare.

The closing of Another Fork in the Road was not the only disappointment that we faced on the trip up.  At the intersection of Seekonk Road and Boice Road, a mile or two from our destination, Officer Krupke allegedly observed that I ignored a stop sign and brought the full and expensive majesty of Massachusetts motor vehicle law down on me.  While his version of events may be correct (and unimpeachable), I remain unconvinced because I was driving slowly, looking at road signs carefully, due to the imprecision of our GPS.  
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My young bride brought the following article to my attention, which asks us to deep six a modern collection of clichés.  Indeed, many of them should be taken out to pasture, but imho they at least consist of full words, not the telegraphed letters that have moved from teenspeak into general usage.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017
To celebrate the (partial) gathering of our clan, we engaged Austin Banach (, a talented young chef to prepare our dinner tonight.  In all, a night to remember.  The menu was roasted beet tart tatin with herbed chèvre and nasturtium salad, sweet corn soup with micro pea tendrils, pan seared cod with ginger and chili salsa, asparagus with egg and caper vinaigrette, faro risotto with mushrooms, and frisée salad with fresh apricots and walnut vinaigrette.  For dessert, Austin made us blueberry and lavender galette with vanilla ice cream (the only store-bought component of the meal).  The children had been fed earlier and he served them a thick, chocolate moussey dessert that reminded me of the superiority of chocolate to all other items on the Periodic Table.  I confess that I selected the otherwise excellent blueberry creation, a bow towards adult respectability that I will forgo next time when such a chocolate experience presents itself.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Once upon a time, I managed or employed white collar staff, office workers and computer people.  It was long enough ago that I did not have to face the plague of flip flops, skimpy slabs moved out of the shower stall onto the office floor.  I would object to them even in a back office setting, unless cars or circus animals are being washed.  For a discussion of the topic, see
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Today's paper, which I am reading on-line even on vacation (as if a retired person can go on vacation), has a much more disturbing article about a steam pipe explosion immediately adjacent to Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan.
One person died, many were injured by the scalding steam and flying debris; there was extensive property damage and disruption in the densely-occupied area.  All of that might or might not be considered under the heading of an accident beyond normal human control.  What troubles me is the report that the trial of liability for the July 18, 2007 event is first scheduled for October in New York Supreme Court, my last employer.  Technical and factual complexities and the number of parties, plaintiffs and defendants (anything that happens on the streets of New York always pulls in lots of defendants), added to the delay, no doubt.  However, I am sure that my former colleagues did not cause this seeming rupture of the judicial process and probably pushed, pushed, pushed to move things along.  Yet, it is ten years later and justice seems not only blind, but severely hobbled.    

Thursday, July 20, 2017
We all had a mid afternoon treat at SoCo Creamery, 5 Railroad Street, Great Barrington, originally South County Creamery.  It was impossible to track all the flavors that we ordered among the 7 of us, but Dirty Chocolate was a popular choice.  Far be it from me to quibble, but it was mislabeled.  I anticipated a deep chocolate with nuts, raisins, maybe coconut mixed in.  Instead, it was a blend of chocolates, very nice, smooth, with nothing chewy or granular, however.  Other options included banana brownie, ginger and peanut butter mudslide.  Worth a visit.

Friday, July 21, 2017
I read another woe-is-me commentary about America's neediest -- white men, Christian more often than not.  These lamentations usually point to those liberal college professors, social workers, lawyers and politicians who have relegated them to the socio-economic sidelines, while advancing all sorts of undeserving strangers to positions of power and influence.  Of course, the current collection of billionaires assembled in Washington will, no doubt, reassert the greatness that was wrenched out of real American hands.  

What caught my attention in this particular cri de coeur was the claim that the New England Patriots professional football team is widely disliked because they are called PATRIOTS.  The writer obviously knew as little about professional football as he did about American history and politics.  The New England Patriots are widely disliked because they are the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, a team noted for inventive methods of cheating.  Everyone does it?  Where have you heard that one before?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Movie Time

Monday, July 10, 2017
The web site has just published its list of America's best sandwiches.  The 23 selections are far-reaching, but only 2 reach anywhere close to home: Saltie, 378 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, for hard-boiled egg, feta, capers, black olives, pickles and pimento aioli on focaccia; and Milano's Deli, 41 Montgomery Street, Jersey City, for a chicken parm.  Not having sampled any of the 23 choices, I can't insist that the voting was rigged.

However, for the list to be taken seriously it has to include, or be expanded to include, something from Ben's Best Kosher Delicatessen, 96-40 Queens Boulevard, Rego Park, at least a corned beef, pastrami combo; the buttermilk-battered chicken sandwich with apple/celeric slaw and sambal (chili-infused) mayo from Genuine Roadside at Gotham Market, 600 11th Avenue, New York City; and, the brisket sandwich at the Bolivian Llama Party, 1000 Eighth Avenue (really the southern end of the Columbus Circle subway station, enter at 57th Street and Eighth Avenue).  

For a Hall of Fame entry, possibly clouded by the mists of time, I nominate the Bo Burger at Obie's Diner, Ithaca, New York, a repurposed trolley car with either 10 or 20 stools, according to different sources.  I cannot find a precise address for the downtown institution, which closed in 1966.  In any case, the Bo Burger was a cheeseburger, with fried onions under the meat and a fried egg on top of the cheese.  Adding to Obie's appeal was the aura of sexual tension exuded by all the Cornell men parked there after depositing their Cornell women dates obeying their midnight curfews.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017
According to High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of An American Classic by Glenn Frankel, which I just finished reading, Dwight Eisenhower showed the movie three times at the White House, while Bill Clinton, possibly thinking it was an aphrodisiac, watched it 20 times.  Want to suggest an appropriate film for the current occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?   Psycho vs. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?
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Just as I finished nominating the buttermilk-battered chicken sandwich at Genuine Roadside in Gotham Market, 600 11th Avenue, for sandwich immortality yesterday, I heard from Dr. Marcel L. that he was interested in trying it.  So, we met there at lunchtime today and the good doctor agreed with my assessment after having a chicken sandwich.  

We were both so pleased that we proceeded to the Ample Hills Creamery stand a few feet away.  Marcel had a scoop of their deep, dark chocolate, while I had, you'll pardon the expression, "Ooey Gooey Butter Cake," described as vanilla ice cream made with cream cheese and "St. Louis-style" butter cake.  For more information, see  For the empiricists among you, just try it -- and this is from a chocolate person.

Thursday, July 13, 2017
I couldn't do it again if you paid me, but this afternoon I essentially did a cartwheel when attempting to lift a telephone (the old-fashioned kind) off the floor and place it on a stand across the room.  I wound up with a variety of bumps and bruises, some rather dramatic in color and shape.  We'll see if this limits my gallivanting in the next few days, but real champions play hurt. 

The big news not having to do with the abandonment of honesty, decency, integrity and the rule of law, is the breaking apart of a huge iceberg in Antarctica.
The New York Times first described the broken piece as "roughly the size of Delaware," a comparison repeated by others outlets, but not all.  CNN, in the article above, observed that the hefty baby berg has "a volume twice that of Lake Erie in North America and is more than three times the size of the greater London area."  Even though I have spent far more time in the greater London area than in Delaware, I am unsure that I comprehend the size of the breakaway. 

The New York Times did a delightful riff on this subject.  It suggested alternatively imagining the newly-independent iceberg as 2 Samoas, 1/2 Gambia, or 1/10 Latvia.  

It reminds me of the inventive MIT students who recalibrated the Harvard Bridge, carrying Massachusetts Avenue over the Charles River, in Smoots, the recumbent length of then first-year (f/k/a freshman) student Oliver Smoot, '62.  
Expressing the length of the bridge as 364.4 Smoots seems friendlier than 659.82 meters, but how do you feel about 3 Londons vs. 1 Delaware?

Friday, July 14, 2017
The California Supreme Court, supreme like the U.S. version and unlike the N.Y. version, has just ruled that the state's famously hard bar exam is too hard.  
California had a pass rate of 62 percent for first-time test takers last year, compared with 83 percent in New York.  Only Delaware was tougher, possibly preparing to float out to sea.

I'm not comfortable with opening the portals to legal practice too wide.  There are frequent complaints about the plight of un- or underemployed lawyers, saddled with huge student debt.  While I think that there is a problem with access to the law by many marginal groups in our society shunted aside by geography (too urban or too rural) or economics, an abundance of lawyers has not improved the situation, as seen in the last 10-15 years. 

I am also not quick to dismiss the value of standardized tests as gateways to advancement.  Lawyers, like doctors and Stuyvesant High School students, for instance, should be expected to possess a reasonable level of information,  analytic and expressive skills to support their mission.  In the dozen-plus years that I read legal briefs, statutes and judicial opinions during most daylight hours, I battled incoherence, illogic and ignorance on a regular basis.  

One often unmentioned factor that influences California's situation is the presence of 22 unaccredited law schools in the state, whose graduates are allowed to sit for the bar examination, a leniency not found in many other states.  These students generally perform very poorly on the bar examination, about 1 in 5 passing, compared to about half the California law students who attended nationally-accredited law schools.  Repeat test takers generally have much less success, pulling the overall pass rate down (62% of California first-timers pass vs. about 50% of all test takers).

More lawyers, no matter how well- or ill-prepared, are not the answer to improving the availability of legal services to the underserved.  The market has failed here again.  Apparently, lawyers are willing to cluster around lower Broadway in Manhattan or Court Street in Brooklyn vying for scraps off the legal table, rather than reposition themselves geographically or vocationally purely for economic advantage.  I'm not criticizing such choices.   As a Holy Land chauvinist, I understand the desire to stay near Madison Square Garden or Chinatown when considering job offers.  Thanks to Marjory Fields and Joe Forstadt, I avoided having to choose between a rock and a hard place.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Birthdays and Anniversaries

Monday, July 3, 2017
"It’s Not Just Mike Pence.  Americans Are Wary of Being Alone With the Opposite Sex."  That's the headline for the report of a national survey of attitudes on the interaction of genders.

Men's fear of being overtaken by lust in the isolated presence of the opposite sex seems to correlate roughly with political party identification, education, and religion, although few of us seem to be temptation proof.  An atheistic Democrat with an advanced degree seems to be most willing to tempt fate.
. . .   

Happy Birthday to Aryeh Gold 88, David Goldfarb 88, Nate Persily 47, Meredith Silverman 37 and Zalman Richmond 10.  What a fruitful day.  Being linked to Michael Jordan is good, but I must defer to this quintet.  

By happy coincidence, Nate, a Stanford University professor, showed up in time for lunch today.  While I know that Nate has an adventurous palate, I also know that, following family tradition, he has a jones for Fairway's whitefish salad.  So, we ate at the Fairway Cafe, 2121 Broadway, which offered him not only the finest whitefish salad in the land, but also an everything bagel that was everything a bagel should be. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Today, the New York Times printed the results of another interesting survery, New Yorkers' (dis)satisfaction with the quality of local life and services.  The on-line version went up a few days ago and contains some useful interactive features, including the ability to look at individual neighborhoods.

I am pleased to note the irony that "the neighborhood that New Yorkers are most satisfied with [is]: Manhattan’s District 7, which includes the Upper West SideLincoln Square and Manhattan Valley.  Residents there tended to rate New York’s services higher there than they did anywhere else."   We Upper West Siders are generally recognized as world-class kvetchers.  Maybe someone listened to our past complaints.   
. . .

I guess that I shouldn't be surprised that Oreo is the most popular cookie in the world, made in 18 countries, selling 40 billion annually.  Oreo is taking more and more shelf space in the cookie department, and continues to experiment with permutations and combinations of layers and flavors.  Here's a look at some recent versions that I seem to have missed.

The Oreo cookie has been around for over 100 years and, by coincidence, my brother informs me of another centennial.

As my maternal cousins and some of you close readers know, my mother's maiden name was Goldenberg.  In fact, her youngest brother Arthur used to distribute the candy as his calling card.  

Our Goldenberg name, as master sleuth Ittai Hershman proved, is a nom de New York, affixed at Ellis Island to replace Chelchowsky, the consonant-rich Polish name borne over there.  But note, we became Goldenbergs in 1909, 8 years before the candy emerged.
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An interesting op-ed piece maintains that, in spite of the high disapproval ratings of the present administration in the New York metropolitan area, local sports fans and, particularly, WFAN, the all-sports talk radio station, seem to remain supportive.

I agree and, in fact, I stopped listening to WFAN almost two years ago, having been a regular for 25 years, when it started to Foxify with the rise of Trump.  There are some interesting cross-currents between sports and political philosophy.  Conservatives extol personal responsibility, laud the hero, the loner triumphing over adversity.  Yet, the typical call to WFAN is all about teams, the state of the Mets or Jets or Nets or Yankees or Devils or Islanders or Rangers.  The caller's indignation is evident, while no one seems to be agitated about tennis or golf, the quintessential tests of individual accomplishment. 

Certainly, fans have their favorite individual athlete(s), but, in the long run, I believe that most fans wind up rooting for the laundry.  That is, they remain loyal to the uniform which, in their eyes, has the power to convert a devil into an angel -- not literally since a Devil is a hockey player and an Angel is a baseball player.  But, if that isn't collectivism, what is?

By the way, an interesting (but 4-year old) graphic of the politics of sports fans can be found at:

Another interesting graphic, one year more recent, shows the politics of NFL fans:
Thursday, July 6, 2017
On the way to delay a friend's recovery from major surgery, I stopped in Hell's Chicken, 641 Tenth Avenue for lunch, which I previously visited with William Franklin Harrison, destined to be a future President of the United States.  It wasn't my original destination, because that neighborhood, just west of the Theater District, has a decent collection of restaurants.  Traditionally called Hell's Kitchen, realtors are trying to relabel it Clinton, with no more success than getting the Clinton name on the White House.

Once upon a time, the area was populated by longshoremen in tenements working on Hudson River docks, cf. "On the Waterfront."  When those residents followed their jobs out of town, they were replaced by starving actors and struggling hoodlums, cf. Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder novels.  Now, new buildings with high floors and matching rents have sprouted all over the place.  While the apartment buildings presumably have the latest and greatest amenities, many of the older restaurants lack serious air conditioning capacity, which caused me to bop in and out of several before settling comfortably into Hell's Chicken.  

The joint features chicken wings, but also offers a variety of Korean dishes.  I ordered a kimchi fried rice chicken burrito ($12), only in America.  The fusion worked well.  My experience was enhanced by the bossa nova music played at a civilized level in the background.     

Friday, July 7, 2017
We spent the late afternoon with Nate Persily and friends, as he extended his birthday celebration and visit to New York through the week.  We gathered on the roof garden of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a fabulous spot that I meekly acknowledge I had never visited before.  Go there.  You need not pay the $25 recommended museum admission charge if you head right to the roof.
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We Upper West Siders will soon elevate our already high level of satisfaction with our neighborhood.  Jing Fong, the major league Chinatown dim sum palace, is opening a branch at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and West 78th Street.  It will occupy the space formerly wasted on Planet Sushi.  Palazzo di Gotthelf is exactly 1/2 mile away.  Oh, happy day.