Tuesday, August 29, 2017

In Search of a Chocolate Babka in NYC -By Jim Quinn

We survived our two day stay in NYC. It took just over two hours to get from Penn Station to our front door. We sure packed a lot into two days. My wife’s iGadget said we walked 11 miles on Thursday and another 11 miles on Friday. My sore feet and swollen knee confirm that calculation. As usual I found myself observing and analyzing, more than enjoying the visit. It was a sobering couple days. I’ll probably over-generalize, but I’ll give my overall impressions of the people I saw and the places we visited.
We checked into our Comfort Inn at 44th Street in the Hells Kitchen section of NYC. My wife is good at finding cheap rooms. This one was $152 per night, almost what we paid in Altoona. The night life is a little better than Altoona. The bigger difference is the $26 (17%) the leftist politicians extract from tourists in taxes on the hotel bill. We are taxed to death in this country. The place was run by Indians. They tried to stick us in the basement, but my wife gave the dude shit and he backed down and put us on the 4th floor.
The room was so small you had to go out into the hallway to change your mind. The bathroom was so small you could shit, shower and shave simultaneously. You had to stand next to the toilet in order to close the door. The elevator took forever to arrive at your floor. They offer a breakfast buffet, but when I went down to get a couple cups of coffee they were out of coffee and bacon. They must not understand the concept of the breakfast buffet. I told Dani this would be our last stay at this dump.
After resting up for a couple hours we headed out to my wife’s favorite Thai restaurant for a quick dinner before going to see 1984 at The Hudson Theater. The food was good and the service was excellent. We made it to the theater ten minutes before the curtain rise. It was a small theater. I was heartened by the overwhelming number of millennials attending this anti-government play. There were very few people over 40 years old in the theater. I think that is a good sign. The more young people not trusting our government, the better.
With the confines of a small theater, the adaptation of Orwell’s dystopian classic was downsized to the most pertinent themes. The brutality of the state, constant surveillance of the population, intense propaganda, and use of fear to control the masses was pounded home in a powerful performance. The producers made certain to stress the danger of screens. The government, with cooperation from the Silicon Valley media corporations and the mass media propaganda fake news networks, is trying to control the masses through their multiple screens. But a vast swath of the populace has voluntarily given the government access to their entire lives.
Brave New World and Br...Aldous HuxleyBest Price: $4.88Buy New $6.80(as of 01:00 EDT - Details)The most effective twist to the play was during the torture scene where O’Brien is trying to break Winston. After unsuccessfully convincing him to accept Big Brother and the state as his god though physical torture and pain, it was time to play upon Winston’s greatest fear. As they prepared to put the cage filled with hungry rats over his head, he screams directly at the audience to help him. His plea to the people sitting there helpless and unwilling to intervene really hit home for me. As our government further cracks down on our freedoms and tightens the reins on this increasingly dangerous surveillance state, standing idly by as others are targeted will ultimately lead to our own downfall.
After that uplifting experience, it was time to do something totally shallow. We walked a few blocks to a rooftop bar where they charge $11 for an Amstel Light, the cheapest drink on the menu. But the views of the city at night are spectacular. There is a lighted reflecting pool, fire pits and comfy couches. We nursed our outrageously priced beers and relaxed on a comfy couch taking in the stunning panorama. We were among the beautiful people. And most of them were Asian.
Asians are one of the themes I noted on our trek around the Big Apple. NYC is truly a melting pot. It seemed like there were more foreigners roaming the filthy gridlocked streets than native born Americans. I felt like yelling Speaka Da English to the huddled masses and wretched refuse babbling in some incomprehensible language. NYC is swimming in Asians. I’m sure many of them are tourists, but it seemed like there are far more Asians in NYC than their 5.6% representation in the U.S. population.
Besides the Asian tourists, who happen to be the rudest people on earth as they congregate in huge familial hordes and block the sidewalks with no awareness or care about others trying to get by, a much larger portion of the professionals walking around the city are Asian. I guess it makes sense. Asians have the highest average IQs, work harder than Americans, dominate the honor rolls of the best colleges, and value family and education over ego, entitlement and entertainment. Therefore, they are getting a large proportion of the high paying financial industry jobs in NYC. But, they are still lousy drivers.
On Friday morning after an outside breakfast at a local diner, we walked down to the waterfront on the Hudson next to the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier, now a sea, air and space museum. We reminisced about taking our little boys on-board a long time ago. It seems like the entire city is under construction. There is very little open space, but somehow there are office towers, commercial buildings and residential structures being constructed all over the city. It’s mind boggling how developers can continue to build, while the economy in most of the country stagnates.
When you see hundreds of skyscrapers being constructed with no particular demand for the space, you realize it is all speculation by gamblers posing as developers. And the person providing the easy money for the gambling is our favorite Ivy League troll – Janet Yellen. When central bankers keep interest rates this low for this long they are encouraging bubbles to be blown. NYC is a huge bubble waiting to burst. As we sauntered all over the city, I observed the hottest new retailer – SPACE AVAILABLE. There are vacant storefronts all over the city, including 5th Avenue. A critical thinking person might question the “strong economy” narrative being spun by the politicians and1984 (Signet Classics)George OrwellBest Price: $1.96Buy New $2.00(as of 03:48 EDT - Details) media.
NYC is dependent upon Wall Street greed, tourism, consumerism, and denialism. Yellen’s only purpose in life is to keep the debt based delusions of a failing empire propped up with easy money. When the next financial crisis, created by her easy money policies, arrives, NYC will be ground zero. The vacancy signs are an early warning. When major retailers fail during the “good times” the canary is on life support. The fake economic recoveries in Europe and Asia are built on a quicksand foundation of trillions in government debt.
When the shit hits the fan Wall Street banks will be crushed, tourism will halt, construction will grind to a standstill, jobs will evaporate, and consumers will stop spending like drunken sailors. The implosion of NYC will be one for the history books. Without the materialistic delusions sustained by easy money and a Himalayan mountain of debt, NYC is just a crowded, filthy shithole, inhabited by angry, scowling, egocentric, unhappy people. When it all comes tumbling down I wonder whether the bull statue near Wall Street will be pulled down.
Another observation, as I watched the construction of these easy money palaces of pleasure, was the workers with the construction hats. They were predominantly Mexicans. As a general observation it seems like Americans don’t want to do the dirty hard jobs anymore. I don’t know if they are legal or illegal, but Mexicans are doing most of the working and sweating in the Big Apple. They also do most of the work behind the scenes in your favorite restaurants – cooking, cleaning, dish washing, and busing tables. I wonder who will do the hard work when Trump sends them all back?Amusing Ourselves to D...Neil PostmanBest Price: $5.02Buy New $9.24(as of 07:36 EDT - Details)
After a few minutes along the river front we caught a cab to take us downtown to the WTC area. The cab ride was uneventful, but our cabbie did get annoyed by a pedestrian and started yelling out the window at the guy. Peace, love and understanding, New York style. While we were walking I brought up the Seinfeld episode about the chocolate babka. This triggered my wife to make it her mission to find a bakery with chocolate babka before we departed NYC. But first something a little more serious.
We hadn’t been down to ground zero since 2012 when we visited Zuccotti Park during the Occupy protest.  One WTC (aka Freedom Tower) was still under construction the last time we visited. It is an immense structure which is difficult to capture in a picture. What you won’t hear is the 1,776 foot high, $3.8 billion monstrosity with 3 million sq ft of lease-able space is one-third vacant. So much for the patriotism of Wall Street as they shift operations to cheaper space in Jersey. Build it and not enough came. So build dozens of additional office skyscrapers which aren’t in demand. Makes sense.
We finally glimpsed the 9/11 Memorial in person. I don’t care whether 9/11 was perpetrated by Bin Laden, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the CIA, or Dick Cheney. It happened and 2,997 innocent Americans lost their lives. The memorial and the museum have virtually no political overtones or propaganda agenda. They are 100% dedicated to the victims of this monstrous crime. The enormous hole in the ground where the towers stood with a never ending flow of water pouring into what seems like a bottomless hole, with the names of every victim etched along the sides of the memorial, is a solemn tribute to those who died.
Reading the names and standing on this ground brought my wife to tears. The name of one woman was followed in parenthesis with (and her unborn child). The creator of this simple yet poignant memorial to the victims deserves a tremendous amount of praise.
I was worried the 9/11 Museum would be some sort of government patriotism exhibit glorifying our sixteen years of war making in the Middle East and hailing the Patriot Act as a turning point in the War on Terror. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. Instead we entered a moving exhibit entirely dedicated to those who died that day. There were large girders and twisted pieces of metal left after the towers fell. They were given prominent display at the beginning of the tour. The posters of missing loved ones put up during the days after 9/11 are heartbreaking to see.
The museum is filled with artifacts from ground zero, but it focuses on the victims of the attack. It has dozens of videos from that day. News reports and videos taken by people on the ground. They play transmissions from the firemen and police who selflessly went up the stairs of the towers to save people. They played cell phone calls from people in the towers to their loved ones at home. The shock and horror of that day is presented in a graphic and sobering way. Even though there were hundreds of people in the museum you could hear a pin drop as their was virtually no conversation. The sight of a crushed fire engine, knowing most of those firemen perished brings a tear to your eye.
I thought the Flag of Remembrance with the flag made up of the faces of the victims, with the first responders in blue, was particularly moving. Two graphic designers sewed the faces together over three years to produce this beautiful flag as a tribute to our fallen brothers and sisters. They selflessly did this on their own time with their own resources.
The creators of this museum don’t want you to forget these were husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, nieces, nephews, uncles and aunts. They were average Americans like you and me. They went to work that day and died in a horrible and unfair way. Near the end of the tour there are rooms where each victim’s biography is flashed on the wall and a family member speaks about them as a person. It is almost unbearable to watch. The quote from Virgil – “No day shall erase you from the memory of time” – is a fitting summation of the museum.
After leaving the museum we grabbed some lunch at an outdoor restaurant on Stone Street and continued our trek to Battery Park to glimpse the Statue of Liberty from afar. We sat on a bench in silence for a long time pondering what we had seen and thinking about the meaning of liberty and freedom in a world going mad. I can clearly delineate the themes from Orwell’s 1984 and the surveillance state usurpation of freedoms and liberties since 9/11. The Deep State used 9/11 to gain power and control over the citizenry through fear and propaganda. Lady Liberty weeps for our once great nation.
Since the beginning of our empire after World War II it seems Huxley’s Brave New World vision of amusing ourselves to death has been more prominent as the guiding path of our society, but since 9/11 Orwell’s darker dystopian vision seems to be gaining strength. Neil Postman’s overview captures the essence of our society today, as most are distracted by their screens while the government increasingly cracks down on our freedoms.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that our fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.
After our stay in Battery Park my wife instructed her iGadget to lead us to a bakery with chocolate babka. It led us on a forty minute jaunt uptown to a bakery with the best chocolate babka in NYC. Upon arrival at the bakery in question a hand written sign on the door said “Closed For The Summer. Back in Two Weeks.” Foiled again.
Her iGadget told her there was another opportunity for chocolate babka in Bryant Park on 42nd Street. One problem. We were about 42 blocks away and the streets were gridlocked with Friday rush hour traffic. It was 4:45 and we had to pick up our luggage by 6:00. We walked and walked and walked. I may have said something like “I’ve had enough of this f**king city” a few times during the walk. After getting some gelato at a very cool Italian marketplace called Eataly, I was revived enough to make it to our hotel, but not enough to make it to Bryant Park. Our mission to find a chocolate babka was a failure. I would even have settled for a cinnamon babka – the lesser babka.
Two days in NYC is more than enough for me. Seeing 1984 and the 9/11 memorial/museum was worth the trip, but I’ve had my fill and have no desire to return for a long while. I prefer the peace and quiet of my house, walking on the farm road, and feeding carrots to Ricky the llama. Time to do some weed wacking and iron my shirts for work. Thus ends another NYC adventure.
Reprinted with permission from The Burning Platform.
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