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olt! is a way station and oasis on the ancient road from Bedlam to Bellevue, dedicated to free and open discussion of topics moving heart and spirit.
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Yesterday, a bit early for wine tasting at Astor Place Wines, I head around the corner to Washington Square to pass the time and do some people watching by the fountain. News was that the Square had been cleaned up yet again, but as usual I try not to make eye contact with dealers. That fails and they need assurance that I'm fine and not in need of opiates of any kind today. Ditto to the pair of young religious Jews, asking if I'm Jewish, ready to ensnare me with their Tefillim for Friday afternoon prayers. Are you Jewish? Not today I reply which always throws them. At least they're not as loud and in your face as the Amish preacher hollering ever-lasting damnation to the motley crowd around the fountain.
Now I'm not Jewish but I've been here long enough to appreciate lox and cream cheese, matzo ball soup and gefilte fish, and I know that Teffilim are small boxes containing scriptures, they get strapped to the forehead and the arm. "And you shall bind them as a sign on your arm, and they shall be as frontlets on your head between your eyes" (Deuteronomy 6:8).
I watch the two prepare a lone older man for prayer, respectfully removing the first black box from a bag and centering it on the man's biceps, wrapping the leather straps once around the biceps and seven times around the lower arm, then placing the remaining straps into the man's palm. The second box is placed on the man's forehead, fastened behind his head. Then back to the straps from the palm, wrapping them around the fingers just so according to tradition:
Down to the fist.
Down to bottom of fist
Under-around to the middle finger
1 swing around top of middle finger
2 swings around bottom half of middle finger
Jump it around to the 4th finger
Down to the bottom of fist
Then swing vertically around and around of the middle center of the fist.
Tighten a loop knot in the inner part of fist.*
One of them alternates between leafing through a prayer book for instructions and recording the proceedings with his cell. He hands the book to his friend to point at lines for the man to read, slowly at first then picking up speed, recalling a familiar ritual. When it's over the man alternates between beaming and tears, profusely thanking the two as they stow the Teffilim.
I head for the wine-tasting, which was nothing special this time around though a 2002 Rodney Strong Chardonnay shows some appealing character.
* ... the link no longer works - http://www.hanefesh.com/edu/Tefillin.htm
It's never very far to a laundry when you're in Manhattan. At one time, some years ago during another life, I had a pad just off Times Square and regularly crossed the Square with my bag of dirty wash, heading for a laundry on Eighth Avenue. I thought that was the koolest, all those tourists and me with my dirty laundry! Nowadays it's just down the street. Most older apartments here don't have room for washers, the plumbing wouldn't keep up and the landlord is apt to complain, making the laundry a neighborhood thing where you meet your friends and new lovers, catch up on the latest buzz and ask who was picked up by that ambulance in the middle of the night.
My timing is right, a very specific washing machine is free and gets my brights, it's the only one with an extra 3 minute pre-soak cycle - none of the others do that. Darks go into another machine. I've been coming to this laundry since day one ... it may have been day two or three after they opened. Later I was there on the first day the old owner brought his young son who owns the business now. He is cleaning up as I arrive, mopping the floor, polishing the machines. "Why pay someone to do it and I do it better anyway," straightens the magazine rack and drives off in his Lexus to the next laundry.
As soon as he's gone Maria lights a cigarette in the back by the fan. She does the service orders and has a mouth like the proverbial fishwife. When she's talking to friends in English it's fuckin' this and fuckin' that. I don't understand much Puerto Rican, though I hear a frequent maricón. She takes puffs, folding laundry while watching soaps on an old snowy black and white tv, making frequent trips to the corner grocery for scratch offs and coffee.
Juanita drops by with another petition to sign, she's very civic minded, the lunatic left kind. She waves Hi! but won't tell me what it is. "You never sign anything anyway," she complains and goes on to corner a neighbor down the street.
It's a quiet day, folding is done in no time. The socks match. That's critical, makes it a good wash. I shoulder my bag of neatly folded laundry and head back home.
It's a dreary day in New York, but Joyce Wadler cheers things up with As a Sculptor of Nature, the Man Thinks Big in today's New York Times. The Man is a sculptor know as Mihail who had a big idea: casting an elephant!
Mihail sedated and cast a bull elephant in Kenya in 1980, then took 18 years to complete his sculpture. He proudly presented the finished work to the United Nations this week only to learn that "a number of United Nations delegates were offended by the size of the genitalia on his three-and-a-half-ton elephant, and, after considering surgery, were planning to surround the sculpture with tall shrubs."
There were no revealing pictures, though.
I go hoofing north with my camera in search of this fabled beast somewhere on the Promenade of the United Nations. There amongst flapping flags of all the world's countries, across the street from the Swords Turned into Plowshares sculpture, I find the pachyderm hiding in a small stand of trees, barricaded yet. However, a small opening right by a path leads into the jungle. Amazing how a few trees can create a jungle right in the middle of New York City. Obviously if one is not supposed to go on that path, the barricades would be closed, and they were ajar. So I went, saw, and took a couple of pictures.
As the New York Times explains it, "Mihail's elephant looks as if it has an appointment with a lady elephant, and she's just around the corner, with Sinatra on the boom box and a bucket of martinis." According to Hans Janitschek, who heads the fund that raised the money, when the elephant was sedated "he had a sweet dream" while the sculptor known as Mihail did the body cast.
I head south again ...
Macy's annual flower show windows make for some crazy pictures with much reflection.
all this sill are belong to me
Been feeding a scrawny mourning dove on my window sill who's gotten quite territorial, chases away all other doves. Usually ignores the bluejays darting in for a nut and the occasional cardinal but gets annoyed at too many sparrows.
Three tribes of blackbirds stick to the grass down below, stalking about like thugs. There are enough of them to bake a pie.
The chipmunk is the first to come running when I open the window around seeding time, looking up for manna from heaven.
A couple of squirrels show up later.
A bit later yet a mating pair of doves soars in. He struts , makes eerie sounds ... then extreme PDA right there on my window sill!
No rabbits in sight at present.
Mgmt circulates note re prohibition feeding fauna on premises. Does not mention who would do such.
I'll be less generous ...
Holy Cow! The Secret Ingredient
Over the years there have been many scandals with various industries hiding often harmful ingredients from consumers but I don't recall hearing a peep about our toothpaste, so let's take a closer look there. Not that they're hiding a harmful ingredient but there's a rather interesting origin of one ingredient they'd rather not talk about.
We're all familiar with the many uses of gelatin, our desserts, glue and even in toothpaste! Gelatin is produced by prolonged heating a certain protein - ossein - in water. Ossein is derived from cattle bone treated with acids, leaving the collagen containing ossein.
I take it that nowadays they've figured out how to produce ossein from bone chips supplied by meat processing companies here in the USA. Many years ago I researched the production of ossein for a large engineering company wanting to build a plant in India. At the time the meat processing operation here made it difficult to turn bones into gelatin for desserts and toothpaste since many bones were sold with the meat or boiled to remove scrap meat which also removed much of the protein in the bones.
On the other hand, India was the perfect location. Cows are sacred to the Hindu religion, they wander the streets until the day they die a natural death. Carrion birds and insects pick the bones clean and the sun dries them naturally, leaving them in perfect condition for processing with a full complement of protein. Human scavengers, presumably not of the Hindu religion, collect the dried bones and bring them to a central location where they are crushed and exported to the USA and Europe for processing into ossein. Hence the idea of building a plant in India to produce ossein on site.
Not sure the idea of using Sacred Cow bones this way would go over well in India today what with many reports of Hindu mobs flying into murderous rage at the merest rumor of violating their Sacred Cows. I would look more into this, such as what is in toothpaste in India - those Bollywood stars have very shiny teeth - but perhaps leaving sleeping cows lie may be best.
Following up on your suggestion of some months ago:
There were numerous rumors, I sent out emissaries, scouts, search parties, but none panned out. Most often it was 'we carried it but there was no demand so it was discontinued.' I gave up all hope.
But then, Eureka! Earlier today, one of my far-flung correspondents messaged to let me know a shop just 29 miles away carried it. I confirmed via a phone call and sent a personal assistant who shortly thereafter returned with a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka, 100 Proof!
Seems to have more body, I like it, perfect for the Hearings tonight.
You are welcome, OldMan.
Used to put it (and some folk's mixes) in the freezer before a get-together, let folks make their own cocktails as well. Some needed assistance to make their third, as their body got stuff warm enough to digest, FWIW.
Be forewarned. Straight-up or with a twist, it can be like properly warmed saki -- sip, count to 10, know how drunk you are.
It has been decades, back then, I, too, noted a taste preference/difference.
If you really like it, order a case (or half), it stores well <VBG>.
Fifth Avenue is closed to traffic from 23rd Street on up for the Polish parade, Sixth Avenue is closed from 23rd on down for the street fair, and 23rd is in gridlock on account of above, acerbated by the counterparade of a few Polish monarchists who must have been denied permission to join the main parade. They fly their white and red Polish flag with the regal double eagle, three cop cars as escort, followed by loyalists in a couple of double-decker London tour buses, wildly cheering all the way.
Some blocks further north, a contingent of color guards gathers round one of their own leaning against a wall, felled by age and heat. His wife has his huge fur hat under her left arm, her right holds the American flag he was carrying. His partner waits with a Polish flag sans regal eagle, looking at the parade passing by.
Later, on Sixth Avenue, I watch kids feed the ponies in a petting zoo at the street fair. A mad lady with the voice of Katherine Hepburn tells me she has two apples for the pony, attempts to climb the fence, but gives up. "It's too high," she tells me.
She's busy waving an apple at a cow as I head south, home.