Monday, January 31, 2011

Quiet New York Weekend Life

A snow day in the playground. 3:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, January 31, 2011. A cold, damp winter weekend in New York. Snowbanks still high and even higher in some spots where the plows have piled it up at the end of a block. Not so pretty anymore. A lot of cars in my neighborhood are still buried. And of course, no alternate side of the street parking rules being enforced.

Quiet New York Weekend Life.
Friday night I had dinner with a friend at Elaine’s. I hadn’t been there since before Elaine died. Not surprisingly, however, it didn’t feel any different. Same staff, same rhythm, same atmosphere/décor, and a lot of the same faces.

Émile Zola
Elaine would have found this very interesting. She left the business, if you didn’t know, to her longtime manager, Diane, who’s been with her for many years. Elaine didn’t suffer fools gladly (although she liked a pretty face when it came to a guy), so you know she knew her heiress would know how to work it. Besides the Elaine’s staff is as much a part of Elaine’s as Elaine herself was.

It was an early dinner. I wanted to get home and read (Zola’s Nana), and my friend wanted to get to his date. I got there about 8:15, people were just beginning to stream in, except the bar was already busy. Elaine’s was always a very late night place.

There was some kind of cocktail party going on in the second dining room. We took a table way over in the corner out of the potential melee. That was so I could hear what my friend was saying, and I could also see everyone coming or going. (You never know when you’re going to get a story you can use.)

I had the Lasagna Bolognese. I loved it. Elaine would have loved it too. We were out of there by close to ten. This visit was a bit of a sentimental one. We were both curious to know what the place felt like without Elaine. It felt like Elaine would be in later. Just like before. The front tables were all filled by then. She might have been there by the time we left. That’s how it felt. That, and great Lasagna Bolognese.

The weekend, I’m assuming world watched the protests in Cairo. Although not really. It’s questionable what the world is watching these days, just as what the world is watching is questionable.

Meanwhile, for those who weren’t, it was reported that Johnny Depp and his lady Mlle. Paradis bought a rundown claptrap of a palazzo in Venice for twelve million bucks. I’m always amazed at how much money these movie actors have, aren’t you? The same report said he and Ms. Paradis have several homes. Lives of poor people as told by rich Hollywood stars.

It was also reported that Charlie Sheen’s teeth are beginning to fall out because of his drugging, etc., according to the Daily Mail. I’m always reminded of the woman I knew in Los Angeles who worked the nightshift in the bedrooms and hotel rooms of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. She told me – laughing – that Charlie Sheen was her easiest John. He never even so much as touched her. All she had to do was stand at the foot of the bed with nothing on and tell him how fabulous he was over and over again, while he lay there self-responding to the thrill of it all. Until he didn’t need to hear it anymore and she got her money and left. And you ask, is there a Society today?

The best television coverage (which I saw on the internet)
on the Egyptian situation was Al-Jazeera. I’d never seen Al-Jazeera over here. (I saw it when I was in Abu-Dhabi a few years ago.) It is not remarkable, it is simply more intelligently presented. The formula is so familiar that only the Arab name and the style of reporting make you realize it’s not American. And, of course, the Anglo-accents.

Saturday I made the Zabar’s run and got
a haircut at Jean-Louis David on 75th and Broadway. It’s a combo barbershop/ hairdressing salon -- very neighborhood; all ages, shapes, sizes, as well as volume of hair and colors. It’s like a small town establishment except I don’t recall ever having seen someone there more than once. At least no one I recognized. Sometimes while waiting my turn, I’ll imagine what some customer’s apartment looks like, and what it feels like to walk in the front door – the smells, the light (or not). Because the West Side has a different feel, a different air about it, very en famille or something.

I first went to that shop when I moved back from Los Angeles in 1992. A haircut (with shampooing) was $12. Plus tip. Today it’s $27, without shampoo. In the nineteen years, I have had only two barbers. The first, a young Russian man who later left to start his own business; and since, a blonde Ukrainian woman named Ludmilla. They were/are both excellent and fast. And pleasant.

Afterwards I went over to Fairway to buy some veggies. The broccoli was five bucks a bunch. I am well aware of prices and am a comparative shopper when it comes to food. It’s the result of having been a (potentially) starving writer for a long time. A fiver was a surprise.

I held off since I was going later up to Zabar's where it was $2.99 last I saw. Not anymore. This week it was $4.99. A penny saved is a penny earned, so saith Ben Franklin, I was taught as a kid. Oh Ben if you could see us now: people don’t even pick them up if they see them on the sidewalk.

Amy Chua with her daughters.
More weekend at home. I also happened to read my friend Jesse Kornbluth’s for a review of sorts called “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother; Amy Chua.” By Guestbutler, Barbara Finkelstein. I only meant to scan but it was very good and I was hooked.

I don’t have child, small or large but I have heard of this book. I’d read little about it out of lack of interest but I understood that as a mother Ms. Chua really put pressure on her children to learn and to practice and to study and to read. Such abuse who could imagine.

Evidently many believe the woman’s demands/expectations are awful and will give the children terrible problems when they grow up. If they grow up, I should add, since so many of us don’t, or at least not as of this writing.

I do live in a neighborhood of lots of children both in the apartment buildings and from the two girl's schools on either corner north and south. So I often get to see what gives with children (infancy to age 12 or so) these days. Reflecting on this would be another Diary, but it seems obvious that Ms. Chua’s idea of demanding attention to study and schoolwork definitely has its advantages -- especially when the children grow up (as some do, as you may have noticed).

What I see sorely missing with many school-age children these days, compared to my own childhood, is lack of curiosity, and a lack of courtesy in relating (which is acquired at home). However, I see this in many adults, also. As far as studies go, I like to think that my primary public school education a half century ago was superior to anything children get in any school today. My supposition is based on observation since many students (and adults) don’t read as much, if at all. I’m reminded of a very remonstrative Adlerian shrink I had years ago, Dr. Lucia Radl. She said that the brain is a muscle and if not exercised (by reading, in this case), it will atrophy. And don’t you forget it. (I didn’t.)

However, This is all to take the opportunity to share an email I got from a friend (you might have too) about a school exam given to some 8th-graders in a Midwestern one-room schoolhouse in 1895.

One of those students grown up would have taken one look at my education prowess and regarded it as lame, at best ... as you will see why.
This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA . It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS - 1895

Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of 'lie,''play,' and 'run.'
5. Define case; illustrate each case.
6 What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time,1 hour 15 minutes)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. Deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. For tare?
4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000.. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. Coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft.. Long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt

U.S. History
(Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton , Bell , Lincoln , Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.

Orthography (Time, one hour)
1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.' (HUH?)
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis-mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks
and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)
1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia , Odessa , Denver , Manitoba , Hecla , Yukon , St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each..
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete.
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