Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Who Do You Trust?

Well, maybe not a Russian GRU agent—no matter how good looking—with a syringe aimed at your neck. Carrie's going to have second thoughts about Yevgeny when she wakes up from her beauty sleep in the latest cliff-hanger. And she and Yevgeny were getting along so well.

When we last saw the happy couple they were headed off to Kohat to do some shopping, specifically looking for a black box (it's really orange) flight recorder from the downed presidential helicopter. On arrival, the international male and female couple resemble any other couple who are trying to find just the right item for the home.

And Yevgeny, being a male, is weary of shopping. He just wants to sit on the bench outside and let Carrie try out some more "shops" in the bazaar. And of course Carrie does.

And just like any female, she does a lot better when the other half is not with her. She spots Max's rucksack, and one thing leads to another. She and Yevgeny have already been shown a flight recorder from a downed aircraft, but it's not the right vintage, or color. Shopping for the right thing is tiresome.

Kohat is NRA heaven. Every conceivable weapon is available. Having expressed no interest in tanks or armored personal carriers, they are not shown the catalogs.

Carrie makes contact with a merchant who knows what she's after. A deal is struck, and Carrie is set to return at midnight. Meanwhile, Saul has been recalled to Washington and is ambushed into a meeting in the Oval Office with David Wellington, the leftover Chief of Staff, President Hayes, and John Zabel (Rasputin) the war-mongering adviser who has now got the president's ear, and seemingly his mouth, because any thoughts that Benjamin there can think for himself are obliterated when Rasputin goes on and on about the decisive action that is needed to give the "American people" the justice they deserve for their president being assassinated.

Saul is stunned. In the hallway David tells him that that's what they're up against. Saul is not pleased, to say the least. His beard quivers.

Back at he C.I.A station they've ordered up an ex-filtration team to get Carrie out of Kohat and end her shopping spree and bring her back in leg irons.

Yevgeny is through with shopping, despite Carrie's lead. He wants out of Kohat and tells his men to pack. He tells them in Russian, and of course Carrie understands Russian. She is some woman. He posts a guard outside her door.

A mere guard. Is he kidding? Carrie is a Ninja, and makes her way out the widow and down the wall, with some conveniently placed wires. She's headed for the midnight rendezvous to seal the deal.

Prior to this, she's recognized the need for money. Lots of money. A million U.S. dollars at least. Better call Saul and ask about that C.I.A. bank account that's there for just such emergencies, when the item you need for the home is just a little more than you anticipated. Think of it as flexible spending health account for a nation.

Carrie has also recognized she needs a way to neutralize the ex-fil team while she completes her shopping. A reluctant, but compliant Jenna back at the C.I.A. station in Kabul whispers the safe house location to Carrie. Carrie in turn has arranged, through a Yeygeny contact, to have the police raid the place and take the poor confused bastards into custody for 24 hours. They are out numberd 4-1, and were given the order from Mike at the C.I.A. station to stand down. Carrie is always a step ahead—until she isn't.

Carrie's late for the buy, but meets the seller who wants gold or diamonds. Carrie offers secure bank transfer. He's impressed with the preparation. How much? Seller wants $2 million. Carrie explains a few facts of life to the seller and he drops his price to $1.5 million. Carrie says she walks if he can't take $1 million, a million she points out that the seller isn't going to share with too many people. Agreed.

Carrie phones Saul back in D.C. The cell phone reception and connection apparently from Washington to Pakistan is like calling for neighborhood pizza.. She gets the link, and voila, the seller gets a confirmed $1 million in his account. Signed, sealed and delivered.

Carrie authenticates the black box, which of course is really orange. Carrie has her laptop, and the right power cord to connect to the flight recorder. She didn't leave the power cord back at he hotel like most other traveling business people. This is not Carrie's first rodeo.

Carrie pulls her weapon and tells the seller to now "get the fuck out of here." The seller fully understands, and leaves.

Carrie listens to the recorder. It's what we, and Carrie already knew it would be. Mechanical problem, bad weather, no spot to land, disaster. Silence. At this point Yevgeny has of course found Carrie and listened to the recorder. On hearing the crash, he says what is the clear understatement of the series: "Fucking helicopters."

Carrie's libido is lit. She and Yevgeny nearly start to rock and roll right there. Yevgeny goes along,. To a point. He just happens to have planned to have a syringe of a knockout drug that he promptly stabs in Carries' neck. Quick faint into his arms. Carries Carrie off, back to the hotel. It's not a bodice ripper, but remember where they are. Pakistan.

It's not a date rape drug. Or maybe it is, but that's not what Yevgeny has on his mind. We do not know what's on Yevgeny's mind. He is a GRU Colonel. He kisses sleeping beauty and goes off to do something. Which of course is where the episode ends. Another cliff-hanger.

Will Yevgeny destroy the black box, even though it's really orange? Will he use it for some devious means to get the Russians to back the Taliban, now surging in numbers under Haqqani's son Jamal? Does he really look forward to the U.S. walking into Pakistan trying to find Jamal, start a war trying to bring him to justice, even though Jamal is just a pipsqueak who has lied about his prowess in order to further his control over the Taliban? Jamal is an emir now. The men adore him.

We're just going to have to wait for Carrie to wake up and figure out what to do in the last two episodes. She's going to have to take care of her headache first.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Covid-19. Coronavirus

The duration of our shutdown and shelter-in-place living has lead me to write the thoughts I've been having as this episode in the life of the world keeps unfolding.

So many of the comments and observations are digital that I realize they are just thoughts in the wind. They disappear like milk weeds blown off a dandelion. And since I have this blog printed at the end of every year, these thoughts and observations will be "memorialized" in print for whomever decides to open the 2020 volume. A deposition for he record.
It had to happen. My wife noticed someone at the supermarket on Saturday wearing a military gas mask. Perhaps they just watched the movie 1917 at home.

@bklynbckstretch, Teresa Genaro, an English literature teacher at Packard Academy and a horse racing journalist, Tweeted: "T. S. Eliot was wrong." This of course refers to how Eliot imagined the end of the world coming in his poem Hollow Man, "not with a bang but a whimper." My own thoughts are he's wrong. It ends without a haircut.

The media loves numbers. Thus we have a stat on the number of deaths attributed to the virus worldwide, and domestic. Death is an easy number to understand. It's absolute. A person as counted as dead on Tuesday, is still dead on Wednesday.

But "cases" of the virus is a little more nebulous. This one right now is topping 300,000. But what constitutes a "case." As soon as there is a confirmed positive test of the virus, you are a "case." You may be asymptomatic, you may be really sick, you may be in the hospital—even the ICU—you may be any number of things, but to the media you're a "case" And part of a large number. The media loves a large numbers.

But a case is not irreversible. A positive test on Tuesday may not be positive in two weeks. In fact, you could have recovered from being a "case" and volunteer to give plasma because your body now contains the antibodies to fight the virus. Antibodies that can be used on others. This is being called "convalescent plasma."

Cumulative numbers might gives a sense of the breadth of the disease, but they are not anchored in time. Does the media subtract those that are no longer "cases." Of course not. No way to do that. So, once smitten, you are a "case."

More telling might be the number of people in the hospital vs. the number of beds available to treat those people.

The whole numbers things reminds me of the reporting the nightly news gave us on the Vietnam war. Every night it was reported that we killed x number of Vietcong. Certainly dead Vietcong are countable, but how many are there still alive?

It was absolutely stupid reporting and reflected the Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara's obsession with numbers. Dead, rifles seized, number infiltrated. One evening the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.commented on the Johnny Carson show, "my God, you'd think we've got turnstiles on the Ho Chi Minh trail."

McNamara was of course recruited from the auto industry, and was used to counting things in terms of production. Numbers are just that. Numbers. You need context. I still hate McNamara, and he's dead.

Studio sports. Sports of course are pretty much non-existent around the world. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are cancelled, as well as a raft of other events. Horse racing—where it is still being run—is only at a few tracks across the country, and then in front of empty stands.

Oaklawn Park in Hot Spring Arkansas, Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream in Miami are the only major tracks operating right now.

The Kentucky Derby has been postponed until the first Saturday in September, with the dates for what would be the other classic races, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, not yet announced.

Some tracks are planning to come on board with racing by the end of April, but with no one in the stands. Belmont, set to open April 24th, is still planning their spring meet.

Myself being a NYRA racetrack habitué would have naturally gone to Belmont this year on April 25 with The Assembled. This of course will be postponed as well. But "social distancing is never a problem at Belmont on any day other than Belmont Stakes Day. There is pretty much only 2,000 people strung out all over the place. Fire a cannon and you might take out some pigeons. We should be allowed on the grounds. Free of charge, of course.

A NYT metro reporter, Corey Kilgannon Tweets (@CoreyKilgannon) out nuggets from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's daily coronavirus reports. Guv Andrew has become a celebrity, praised for his frankness and inspirational support. Without even trying to be the Democratic nominee for president, he is favored by many to be drafted for the nomination.

The Guv steadfastly denies he'd like to run for the Oval Office. At least not now. He's only 63, and since he's not yet in his 70s it is understandable why he might think he's too young to run. Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Bernie sanders are all in their 70s. And now with Biden probably locking up the nomination, it's clear the nominee, as of this writing, will be in their '70s.

Joe Biden is of course seen as a liability since he can be malapropism Joe, stumbling and seeming to have trouble articulating contemporary culture.  His recollection of thrashing Corn Pop is priceless.

Guv Andrew takes questions from the scattered assembled news people in front of him. Someone, I don't know who, must have asked if there was any truth to the rumor that NYC was considering burying the dead in city parks.

NYC does have a Potter's Field on Hart Island, and uses inmates from Rikers to bury people there. Hart island in not inhabited by anything other than the dead, and sits in the East River under a flight pattern for LaGuardia airport. Certainly the noise from the aircraft doesn't wake the dead.

Guv Andrew responded to the city parks burial question that there were no plans to bury people in city parks.

"I've head a lot of wild rumors, but I've not heard about the city burying people in parks."

Guv said this despite the fact that such burials could add a great amount of phosphorous to the soil and would undoubtedly be good for the grass. Decaying bones are natural source of fertilizer. Go green. No chemicals.

The park burial rumor gained such traction that @MarkLevineNYC, Chairman of NYC Council Health Care Committee issued the following statement:

"I have spoken to many folks in City gov’t today, and received unequivocal assurance that there will be *no* burials in NYC Parks. All have stated clearly that if temporary interment should be needed it will be done on Hart Island. 1/2...

"And that of course if such burials are required they will be done in a dignified, orderly, professional manner. Let’s all keep working hard to slow this virus so that such steps are not in fact needed. 2/2"

End of story on a Central Park burial.

And then of course we have the tiger at the Bronx Zoo who tested positive for the virus. It seems an animal handler at the zoo tested positive. When the tiger was exhibiting symptoms of something they thought to test the tiger and found it to be positive for the virus.

Turns out cats can get the virus from people, but the animal cannot give it to a human. All are doing fine.

Of course the joke became how did the tiger get tested ahead of so many others? Who wouldn't let a tiger jump the line? You tell them no.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Most Disturbing

The most recent episode of Homeland is indeed disturbing. Added to the executions you have an American president portrayed as a chameleon who will change his mind to whatever the last thing he's heard. Thus, a Rusputin, war-hungry adviser is able with 15 minutes to go before a national address, get the president to change his speech entirely and send out an ultimatum to Pakistan that is sure to inflame tempers.

The adviser is John Dancy, an he's got a beard, just like Rasputin. He's a West Wing adviser brought in by the vapid president, Benjamin Hayes, to counter the annoying, level-headed David Wellington, the Chief of Staff left over from the prior administrations.

John Dancy has got the president's ear and basically alludes to not liking Polish people, because he rhetorically asks, "who is this Max Piotrowski in the grand scheme of things." Boo. Hiss.

Max has made it this far into Season 8, but he's about to be executed by the renegade Taliban who are being lead by Jamal, Haqqani's banished, bad seed son.

Meanwhile, things are even worse. Haqqani is being executed by a firing squad, having been sentenced to death by the show-trial Afghan court.

Things are bad. The Taliban is split between those who want to keep pursuing peace as Haqqani was doing, and those hot heads led by Jamal who want to keep making trouble big time. Jamal has roused them up by claiming that he shot down the helicopters—with the RPG that he just happens to have unfolded from a blanket—which he assuredly did not because another member of the Taliban tells him he knows he wasn't even near the site. Matters little. Jamal has filled the leadership vacuum.

It just so happens that Rasputin is trying to get the goods on the Saul and his peace cabal by instructing a female operative to bring back compromising information. This usually involves some video of  honey pot sex, but there is none. She's instead able to obtain a video of Jamal admitting to his ragtag followers that he's behind it all. He's the ascendant leader now that his father is dead.

Minutes before the president is about to make his speech that he's told he cannot cancel because they've preempted all national TV programming, (Yeah, so? It would be good news if the shows weren't preempted.) Darcy thrusts the smuggled video of Jamal's ranting in front of him. It's enough to convince ding-dong Hayes to abandon the David Wellington speech, and go with the tough stance speech Darcy has prepared threatening military action if Jamal is not brought to justice. Talk about a cluster fuck.

Meanwhile, back where Max has been killed by the fleeing Taliban renegades, Carrie is sitting Shiva over Max's body, apologizing to him for taking him for granted. She is awaiting the special-ops team to come now, because as she tells them on the SAT phone, the Taliban teenagers they were so afraid of are gone.

The helicopter arrives with Saul on board. The soldiers take Max's body but then make a move on Carrie to take her prisoner. Carrie's quick to detect this hostility and flees back toward Yevgeny, who has stood by watching the U.S. fuck it up.

Into the Land Rover she goes, cementing the impression she's a Russian agent. In the Land Rover she tells Yevgeny about the black box (it's really orange) and that she knows which Taliban P.C. Richard's has it. Yevgeny swallows this piece of information like he's just been told to shoot himself. This is going to be some report he has to put together to his superiors that he's been driving Miss Daisy around Pakistan and Afghanistan looking for a sale on electronics.

Saul's back in the helicopter mad as hell, because before Carrie saw the zip ties they were going to put her hands in, he had her cooperating with good intel. Not now. She's in the wind with Yevgeny, headed for the black box (it's really orange).

President Hayes has gone out on the war limb, Saul is left with Carrie being a wanted Russian agent who they will now probably shoot on sight. How much worse can things get?

My guess is we're about to find out, But Carrie will likely come up with something, but assuredly won't get a presidential compliment of thanks in a hanger like President Warner bestowed on her. Will Rasputin get it in the neck?

Things are grim. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

You've Got to be Kidding, Right?

No. They really do rearrange the stones at Stonehenge to reflect what is called British Summer Time, BST. And by virtue of that, they put the stones back when it is no longer BST.

It's okay to doubt what you read or see on the Internet, but the moving of these stones really does happen. @SarahLyall Tweeted a picture of a crew from the English Heritage staff working on Saturday to move some stones to reflect Sunday's start of British Summer Time. Apparently we start ours a little ahead of theirs, even if it is not summer anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere.

The movement of the key rocks allows Stonehenge to accurately tell the world the time for sunrise, which today, BST, is 6:49 A.M. Apparently the crews have been doing this for awhile, so everything was in place when it needed to be.

When my wife and I were first married a scant 45 years ago, we started collecting antique clocks. We've slowed considerably in doing this, but at last count we display eight clocks, all in good working order, some of which bong quarter, half and hours, preceded by some chimes.

If things are working really well, a few clocks will bong in harmony, creating a fair racket in the house. We of course are used to it, and the girls of course grew up with it.

Our younger daughter was recently creating a tele-conference video for her grad students to view, since the college is closed due to the coronavirus. She was over our house doing this because she needed the color printer. When my wife and I returned from the stores she said she forgot about the clocks and their bonging, and now how they're part of her presentation. There are a lot of things and people who are part of these presentations whose appearance was not anticipated. Kids and animals have been bouncing into view. With us, it was bonging.

So of course when we here in the States change our clocks, I've got my work cut out for me. It is easy to advance the time one hour, but you can't just move the hands back when you have to. You have to spin them through the whole cycle to arrive at the correct time. This if course sets off a lot of bonging that has to be waited for before going to the next hour. It's done in stages.

At least I don't have to get a wheelbarrow out and start digging.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


Quick. How many zeroes in a trillion? If you said 12 you're right. Ten to the twelfth. I have now lived long enough to read a NYT headline that proclaims:

Congress Races to Pass $2 Trillion Aid Bill as Virus Shakes Society

Most people can write a million out in numbers. Six zeroes. Ten to the sixth. I started looking at the almanac when I was a kid in the 50s and absolutely marveled at the fact that Eisenhower's salary was $100,000 a year. Yes, that's right, $100,000. Ten to the fifth.

My salary at my last two jobs, the last of which ended in 2011, finally exceeded $100,000. I was chuffed that now in the 21st-century I was making more than Eisenhower did as president in the '50s. Mission accomplished.

We know that amounts of money are relative to the era. But I was amazed to read in a book review that President Jackson's budget for removing the Indians from their east of the Mississippi land ballooned way past the expected $500,000 (5 to the fifth) to $75 million. Talk about cost overrun. The author of 'Unworthy Republic,' Claudio Saunt can't resist telling us that's "about a trillion dollars today." And that's in the late 1830s. There's no era that doesn't break through the stratosphere.

It's taken a while to get to the point that we now read amounts of money described as being in the trillions. For those who might have struggled with math, it's worth noting that a billion is a thousand millions. Ergo, a trillion is a thousand billions.

There is of course the famous New Yorker cartoon where that kind of math can come as a complete surprise to those amongst us. Even the boss.

The progression of computers and their ability to store data has gotten us to the trillion threshold long before the federal government cracked through. For computers, it's described as a terabyte, a thousand gigabytes, a gigabyte being a billion bytes. (Actually a little more, but we won't get into that.)

When PCs came along in the early 1980s a floppy disc (look it up) could hold 512,000 bytes of data, and a megabyte, a million bytes of memory, (RAM, random access memory) was an astounding breakthrough. We've come a long way baby, and fast.

I was reading a story about classifying and naming viruses in the WSJ. The article tells us "there are more viruses on Earth than there are stars in the known universe." That takes you into the trillions. Get used to it. Trillion is the new billion.

And or course it all goes back to the senator from Illinois, Everett Dirksen, who in the 1960s once commented on how ubiquitous the quoted amounts of a million dollars had become. "A million here, and a million there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money."

How high can the numbers go?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


How can so many wheels fall off in one episode of Homeland? We are left with another cliff-hanger with Carrie's jaw quivering so much that even from Pakistan it's registering on a Richter scale in California, maybe even Columbia in New York City. It's a massive shake. Her teeth are going to come out.

Just a quick recap, we know Max has been shot, the black box (it's really orange) is traveling on a yak somewhere, Haqqani has given himself up in order to keep 300 of his followers from being executed in a soccer stadium by General G'ulom, and Carrie, our heroine, has whisked herself away with a Russian intelligence officer, Yevgeny Gromov, in order to save Max. You remember, right?

Along the way we have some great quotes that would make Bartlett's if this wasn't a screenplay. Saul tells the president of Pakistan that the U.S. president, Benjamin Hayes, "will do what all weak presidents do: go to war."

President Hayes is so unlikeable and stupid, that you have to wish he was Corn Pop with a chain and who Joe Biden beat up his fists, when growing up in rough and tumble Delaware.

Then there's the scene where Haqqani has given himself up, is locked away in an Afghan jail cell, and gets a quick visit from Saul. Saul knows Haqqani didn't order the shooting down of the helicopters, and tells Haqqani he's innocent. Haqqani smiles ruefully and says, "how can anyone be innocent in 40 years of war." Wow.

Meanwhile, President Hayes has forbidden Saul and others to offer the intercepted signal transmission proof that Haqqani had nothing to do with the downing of the helicopters. Hayes is not revealing the U.S. sources to that intelligence in open court.

Carrie and Yevgeny take off in the Range Rover and drive to where Yevgeny knows he can get information. Anyone he encounters is one "of my guys," Taliban who are friendly with the Russians because the U.S. bombs and kills civilians and they, the Russians, go in and rebuild their mosques, etc. A little editorial comment from the screenwriters, and probably true.

Yevgeny and Carrie traveling together reminds you of a middle-age couple who can't agree on who has the best french fries, Sonic, or McDonald's.

The trip results in getting to the location that Max is held in. Yevgeny was led to believe that the $2,000 be brought with him would get Max's freedom. Nope. Double cross. Only a quick visit. Well, in that case, Yevgeny only offers half the funds.

Yevgeny and Carrie are there long enough to see that another band of whomever has come to take Max away. Enraged, Carrie tries to stop them, but to no avail. Yevgeny, ever the pragmatist offers the other half of the money if they'll tell him where they've taken Max.

It works, directions are provided, and offer a clear indication on what a measly $2,000 in U.S. currency can buy you in the dusty, rocky, desert looking landscape of Pakistan.  The phrase "rugged beauty" would certainly apply.

Meanwhile, Saul has his hands and beard full of the what a jerk the U.S. president is. Peace with the Taliban will slip away if harm comes to Haqqani in the form of a show trial.

Tasneem Qureshi, rather than light up, offers to help Saul have a meeting with the presiding judge, a woman, who might offer help in delaying the trial. She reluctantly agrees.

Another wheel comes off. General G'ulom must know something, because he's substituted the presiding judge with an absolute hardliner, who speaking Dari with no subtitles, convicts Haqqani on the spot, and invokes the death penalty.

Saul is losing it. His walk is getting quicker, and he's tilting forward more. Meanwhile, Yevgeny and Carrie have traveled to a high spot overlooking where Max is now being held. There are maybe 5-6 guards, all teenagers, with simple rifles, guarding the dwelling.

Carries calls Mike back at the C.I.A. station (with a SAT phone you get reception anywhere) and requests a special ops team. Mike is aghast that now the suspected rogue agent who is perhaps in bed with the Russians, now wants American support. Mike agrees, but no one else seems to want to help Carrie. She's on her own.

Trouble. Another wheel comes off when a band of whomever come to truss Max up for a Taliban video. Chop his head off? Carries has already made her way down to the dwelling, unseen, and is about to engage the enemy. She's Carrie, and she's a good shot, even though she's significantly outnumbered. Is this finally the end of Max?

It's then that Yevgeny has also made his way down behind Carrie and stops her cold, clasping his hand firmly over her mouth. No! Carrie's jaw starts to quiver and register on the Richter scale.

You almost feel like you're watching a reenactment of the news. Thus, another cliff-hanger, page turner has been televised.

This better end well. We need a win.

Egg Creams

Anyone who has grown up in New York, and I mean really grown up in New York circa 1950s, will know of people who told them that so-and-so's is where you can get the best "egg cream in the city."

It's like that scene in The Godfather just before Michael comes out on pops the police captain played by Sterling Hayden, right between the eyes, when Sterling Hayden recommends to his dinner mates to try the veal, "it's the best in the city."

I grew up in Flushing, which is in Queens, and only close to Brooklyn when you look at a map. The two boroughs could not be more different. My Jewish friend who lived next door, Paul Pinsky would tell me that Jahn's ice cream parlor on Main Street next to the Prospect theater had the "best egg creams."

I know what egg creams are, and they have nothing to do with eggs. They are a soda fountain concoction of chocolate syrup, seltzer, and milk. Jews in particular loved egg creams, and in any Jewish neighborhood, in the Bronx, Brooklyn or Queens, there were certainly ice cream parlors that provided the "best egg creams anywhere."

If anyone ventures to Downtown Brooklyn and takes in Junior's, site of the best cheesecake in the world, and egg cream central for a long-gone generation of egg cream lovers, and looks at, or buys a souvenir glass, they will get fill lines on the glass instructing them how to also make your own "best egg cream." Fox's chocolate syrup is highly recommended, and is also available for purchase at Junior's. Knock yourself out.

Anyone who needs proof of seltzer's popularity, especially in Brooklyn, need only read the obituary in today's NYT for Eli Miller, 86, Sultan of Seltzer Who Kept Brooklyn Bubbling. Seltzer deliveries were once ubiquitous in the borough, with many trucks following their routes delivering the wooden cases of the pressurized bottles to residences.

I never saw what the attraction was. Jewish people were big on seltzer, I think because they basically believed anything that acted as a cathartic promoted good health. (You might remember Moxie) If your bowels moved, you were healthy. Especially if you wiped well. (I kid you not about this one.)

So, why the sudden rhapsody on egg creams if I never really cared for them? Simple. Obituaries.

In yesterday's NYT there was a Death Notice for Nan Schieisner Weiss, a woman born in 1933 that took up six of the eight columns a Death Notice can be displayed in. In fact, hers was only one of two death notices in the whole paper, probably because with the restrictions on gatherings, even at funerals, family members are not placing notices in the paper. Another ripple effect of the coronavirus.

The name of a famous New York saloon, P.J. Clarke's caught my eye, principally because it was at the end of one of the column. I don't usually read the Death Notices unless something catches my eye for some reason, and P.J. Clarke's being cited, did just that.

Nan, was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, went to college in North Carolina, worked in her family department store in Harrisburg, and moved to New York City after graduating college to pursue a career in fashion.

In any era, lots of young people migrate to New York for their career, and when women did it, we will assume in the early 1950s, they could find themselves staying at the Barbizon Hotel, a hotel on 59th Street I believe, that was only for women, and especially for the new arrivals who were looking to get a start in New York City, the big bad city, before finding more permanent living arrangements.

The notice tells us:

"At the Barbizon, she renewed her acquaintance with Burt Weiss, also from Harrisburg, who became her husband for 52 years. Their first date was for an egg cream at P. J. Clarke's..."

Huh? P.J. Clarke's is one of the oldest saloons in New York City, owned by a restaurant corporation that has recreated its Third Avenue, below-the-El look in a few other locations, right down to the sarcophagus porcelain urinals that look like upended row boats.

That you could get an egg cream at P.J. Clarke's, in any era, seems as unlikely as being able to buy a left-handed screw driver. Did Burt spin a line to Nan and tell her a Brandy Alexander was really an egg cream?

This possibility reminds me of the scene in 'Guys and Dolls' where Sky Masterson wins his bet and takes the strait-laced Salvation Army tambourine girl Sarah to Havana and gets her to start downing rum by having her drink it mixed with milk. Sarah gets a buzz on and declares that the concoction would be a great way to get children to drink milk. The buzz of course leads to a song, "If I Were a Bell," which of course fits because Sarah's bell has truly been rung.

Has the gang back in Harrisburg been fed a line about how Nan and Burt got together again, sipping egg creams at P.J. Clarke's? Are they that strait-laced that they could be told that Burt took her out for a few at a saloon? Maybe it's an inside joke.

I have absolutely no idea. Could P.J. Clarke's been asked to make an egg cream for Nan by Burt? They certainly would have the ingredients, if not the repetitive expertise to make "the best egg cream?" Did Burt wink at the bartender and ask him to slip some spirits into the concoction? It certainly seems that Burt was in New York City ahead of Nan and knew of a place to go on a first date, even if it wasn't a museum.

Whatever, it worked. They were married for 52 years. That says it all.