Thursday, June 29, 2017

My Restaurant

The Gipsy Fish
   I’ve written about the Gipsy Fish before, but herewith another visit. I go very often, with whoever is the companion on my walk. It is just far enough from our house that I can call the way there and back an adequate exercise outing without having been overtaxed. So that establishment has become the only restaurant—in any city I have lived in—at which I have become a “regular.”
   When we get there for lunch, it is always early, since most locals like to have lunch around three, while I stay closer to my American practices. So there is no problem getting the same table next to an open expanse, overlooking a busy corner—that of Rodin and Holbein. (The streets in this area have the name of artists; I’ve given up on composing dialogues of those that meet at intersections.)
   Being a regular has its modest privileges. Before I sit down—not a trivial effort, given the state of my knees, one of the helpers puts a cushion on my chair—the unsolicited result of a comment made quite some time ago that for my unpadded behind the chairs were pretty hard.
   Now what happens next is pretty crucial. Fairly soon, a well-made martini appears. Patrik, a companion of mine before he returned to his Belgian roots, had taught them how, with my favored proportions of  four (gin) to one (vermouth), making Gipsy Fish one of the rarer places here where you can get a real martini. (I’m not addicted to them; though with one a day, that’s more than I’ve tended to have in the past.)
   But of course, we’re at a restaurant, one specializing in sea food. They offer a zillion dishes, but I stick to very few of them. I’m neither a gourmand nor a gourmet, so I mostly limit myself to about one of three of that multitude. Call me unadventurous. I don’t mind; it’s true.
   I’ve been reading depressing stories—in my book (see above) or about Trumpland and about Israel. They deserve responses, but right now I’m not up to tackling that. Maybe later, maybe never.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Power Broker; Enough already
   I’ve gotten to just under p. 900 (with more than 200 to go) with only now-and-then short bits of skimming. I plan to finish the book. But I must say, it’s not a pleasant experience. The last chunk I read is typical. [1] Moses proposes the route for a road that is costly in dollars and, more importantly, in the upheaval of families who live in the houses that would be demolished. [2] A much less damaging alternative is proposed and pushed for by adherents, solid citizens. [3] Moses is approached, but won’t even listen to the alternative proposal.
   It makes for downright unpleasant reading, so that I have to force myself to go on. I’ve come to  wonder how the book’s author, Robert Caro, could carry on, since he had to give an account of all this in the meticulous detail that he does, without—at best—getting disgusted. One moral of this story is that we don’t give enough credit to the fortitude of the stomach that listens to and gives an account of a lot of crap.
* * * * *
   There are volumes to be said about the Robert Moses book, but I don’t plan to comment further on this theme. It’s either do it right or don’t do it at all. I’m for the latter.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Time Out

I'm still reading the Robert Moses book and will get to more faithful blog-minding when I am done with it.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Caro's Megabook on Robert Moses

   I’m now past page 600 of Robert Caro’s book on Robert Moses, about half-way through its text. (There are an additional hundred pages of notes plus an extensive index.)  When I’m done, this will make the longest continuous one volume book I can recall reading. But it’s the wrong question to ask whether Moses, a  New York politician of the first half of the 20th century, merits as much prose as might be devoted to a Napoleon biography.
  The Power Broker, in all of its unwieldy girth, is not really a biography, but the accounting of Moses’s political and economic activities while serving in several positions in and around  New York City and how his personality shaped his actions and how they in turn affected his personality. That calls for the introduction of a large number of “characters”—a huge number—who were active then—a lot or a little.

   But the direction of the flow seems to be toward some sort of nadir of the book’s “hero.” While there are plenty of sections that give an account of Robert Moses’ inappropriate willfulness, there is no sign as yet of the nadir that accounts for the book’s subtitle, “Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.” I fully intend to read the rest of the book, but I must say that much of that is not a pleasant experience.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

On the Way to Becoming Mayor

An Odd Moment on the Way to LaGuardia’s Becoming Mayor of New York
   While I’m well into Robert Caro’s book on Robert Moses, it’s “only” to page 360—there being 1162 of text. The complex narrative is immensely interesting (that Pulitzer was certainly deserved) and of course about much more than the book’s ambiguous hero. Needless to say, you won’t get a review on this blog; that much work I leave to others. But I will probably report about some passages that strike me of particular interest, starting with the following.
   A Fusion Party had been formed with the aim of beating the Tammany candidate for New York City mayor whose term would begin in January 1934. The clean government elders serially approached a large bunch of distinguished New Yorkers and were turned down. Then they came to one who refused the nomination on quite unusual grounds.
   That would-be candidate was Nathan Straus who was both delighted and flattered by the proposal and asked for a couple of days before giving his response. When they met again Straus told the Fusion elders that he had decided to decline. “The ill-fated star of Adolf Hitler was rising. . . . Jews were accused by Hitler of endeavoring encompass the control and government of the whole world . . . Straus refused to accept a nomination for Mayor at a time when Herbert Lehman [a Jew] was Governor because it might give credence in some quarters to Mr. Hitler’s charges. . . .” (p.353)
   This refusal led to the nomination of Fiorello LaGuardia who was then elected Mayor of the City of New York. It is not known whether The Little Flower knew of Hitler’s role in the prologue to his nomination.
   P.S. LaGuardia was mayor from the time we arrived in New York in March 1939 until 1945. I was in high school for most of those years and listened always to LaGuardia’s Sunday broadcasts on WNYC. He ended each of these talks with a resounding “Patience and Fortitude.”