The Mount Vernon Public Library, Saint Paul's Church and the Statue of TR- 3-18-06

The Mount Vernon Public Library, Saint Paul’s Church and the Statue of TR!


Richard J. Garfunkel

March 18, 2006


After finishing up my tennis game at Mount Vernon’s Memorial Field Bubble I decided to drive down Route 22 to the Pelham Gourmet, which is right off Boston Road. They have a pretty worthwhile appetizing department and one can get just about anything from their salad bar. So after getting some fruit and a wedge I made up my mind to visit Saint Paul’s church again. The light was great and I was sure that some good pictures could be easily had. Of course there was no one strolling about and I had the churchyard and cemetery all to myself except, of course for the permanent residents. I was able to take some shots, which I have included with this e-mail, and I looked for the grave of one Thomas Flenders, where I had posed my self in 1967 and 1994. Eventually I found it and I was surprised how weathered it had become over the years. It was even getting hard to read the engravings. Thankfully the sun was out and it counteracted the cold March breeze. After strolling around for a few more minutes I hopped in my car and headed over to 1st Avenue and the public library. After reading that story, from Mary Ann Cammarosano Fruciante, about the stone monument that was placed there in 1949, by the French town of Thionville, I decided to look at it myself. I had not been in that library since my senior year in 1963, so this was a real adventure.


The librarian had no clue about the monument, but I was able to find it on the First Avenue side and take a few photos. Somehow I remember walking by that concrete bullet shaped piece in the distant past. But I was glad that I finally knew what is was and how it got there. The library is an incredible structure but it could obviously use a great deal of work. It would be nice if they could get a significant grant from the Federal government or from some corporations. But libraries are suffering everywhere and money is getting tighter and tighter in Washington, as more and more libraries are being built and wrecked in Iraq. Meanwhile at one of the research tables, a young gal in her 30’s was searching through some of the MVHS yearbooks from 1968, 1969, and 1970. So I started to engage her in a bit of small talk, and when she was finished with the books I thumbed through them to see if some of my teachers had been still around. Many were! My buddy Lew Perelman, who taught there in 1969, had his picture in the science department, and another friend, Barry Reed’s mother was pictured in the guidance section.


After that pleasant interlude with the past, I drove over to Gramatan Avenue, parked in front of Davis High, and walked up the steps to take some pictures of old Teddy Roosevelt. The building looks the same, just like old times.



St. Paul's Church, Freedom of the Press and Doc Randall 3-16-06

Saint Paul's Church, Freedom of the Press and Doc Randall

Memories by

Richard J. Garfunkel

March 16, 2006



Saint Paul’s Church is a national landmark, located at 897 South Columbus Avenue, or Route 22, that is mostly under the collective radar screen for more than a majority of Westchester’s denizens. It is an old church and the Congregation formally had services there in the parish from 1665 until 1977. It was at this site in 1733 that the so-called “Great Election” was held and there were obvious voting irregularities (seems nothing has really changed!). As a young lad in the Mount Vernon public schools I was made aware of the importance of John Peter Zenger’s role in the advancement of “Freedom of the Press.”  I never went on a class trip there, but at times I drove down to that area to fill up my car at “Oil City”. Anyone old enough to remember, would know that in 1963, one could get “no-name” gas at “Oil City” for about 18 cent per gallon.


Of course Saint Paul’s was still an operating church up until 1977 and even though it was restored to its 18th century appearance in 1942 and dedicated as a “National Landmark” on July 5, 1943, it wasn’t a normal place for me to visit in the 1950’s. When I was 22 and fresh out of college, I knew little of the Church and the surrounding cemetery, until I decided to take a drive out there with my new Honeywell Spotmatic 35 mm camera. 


With my tripod, I posed in front of the imposing grave of one Thomas Flenders, who died in 1831 at the age of 43 and his wife Miriam who was also buried there in 1858. Years later on, when I was 49 years old, I came back to Saint Paul’s, and looked for the monument. It wasn’t easy to find and a very attractive young (female) guide helped locate it and I posed for another self-portrait. Unfortunately there was quite a difference between the two photos.


On July 4th every year, the City of Mount Vernon, and I assume the National Park Service, sponsors a reading of the Declaration of Independence there. This has been an ongoing tradition that started in the late 1890’s and a member of the Banning family has done the reading continuously. The latest Banning was a middle-aged fellow named Jack. I had gotten to know Jack through a local political campaign and a mutual friend from White Plains, where I had lived from 1969 to 2002. Jack Banning was a political creature and also ran a memorabilia store on 9th Avenue in New York City that featured; political items, World’s Fair mementos, Marilyn Monroe artifacts and pictures, along with a fabulous French art noveau and deco print collection, from the Empire Age up to the era of the ex-patriots in the 1920’s. When my manufacturing business was located at 22 West 19th Street I would, on a warm day, saunter up to 9th Avenue to ogle at his inventory. Jack featured original signed copies of the most famous Tom Kelly photographed calendar, featuring Marilyn Monroe. Later on when Ms. Monroe was asked what she had on when she slept, it is reported that she answered, “The radio!”


It was an exceedingly hot July 4th day in 1997 when I finished playing at the County Tennis courts off the Bronx River Parkway in Scarsdale, just east of the Hartsdale Railroad Station. On a larkish whim I decided to go down to Mount Vernon to hear the reading of the Declaration of Independence. I hopped into my 1982 Jaguar, which I still am nursing along, kissed my wife Linda goodbye, and told her of my plans. She had an incredulous look of disbelief on her face, but I had made up my mind to go.


It doesn’t take long to go down the Bronx River Parkway to the Cross County and then get off at Columbus Avenue and go south. In fifteen or so minutes I was in front of the church, on the lower part of Route 22. Saint Paul’s Church still stands the same way as it stood a few hundred years earlier. A few score of folding chairs were set up on the lawn in front of the side building, and before long, the social and political elite of Mount Vernon started to filter onto the grounds. It was a stirring sight finally when everyone was seated and dressed in their best white seersucker suits and floral dresses. Many of the women had large hats to protect themselves from the searing high noon sun of early July.


The festivities were started by an impassioned rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner played by the Mount Vernon Band and led by the venerable “Doc” Randall, of AB Davis fame. “Doc,” I had learned, had been conducting at this event for decades. I had not seen him in almost 35 years, but even though I did not know him personally, he looked quite the same, and I could recognize him with ease. He looked great in his white suit and matching white “bucks.” It was like being in a Rod Serling episode of the “Twilight Zone.” I was now 52 years old and “Doc” looked just about the same as he did in 1963. His wife had taken a seat in front of me not knowing that I knew her. So I said to the person next to me, while there was a short break, in a voice that I knew she would here, that I was amazed that “Doc” Randall could still stand and perform since I believed he was way over 90 years old! (Of course he wasn’t and I knew it, and it was a joke!) Well she immediately turned around, and started to correct my ridiculous aside. But before she could get a word in edgewise I laughed out loud and apologized. I said I was a former student and was only kidding. Her grimaced wracked face melted down quickly into a broad smile and she turned back to the ongoing proceeding. The band, led ably by Professor Randall, played more patriotic tunes, and everyone was quite pleased. Jack Banning got to read the Declaration of Independence and before long the event was over, the crowd stood up and started to disappear. For sure I was much better for the experience. I told all my Davis buddies about the glowing event. Unfortunately it wasn’t long after that day that I read that “Doc” Randall had died from cancer. I was so glad that I had gone to Saint Paul’s to hear that reading and see him conduct his last concert. What I would have missed. 


Memories of Mount Vernon, Memorial Field, Football 3-15-06

Memories of Mount Vernon, Memorial Field, Football and other Successes!

March 15, 2006

Richard J. Garfunkel


The 2004 version of the MVHS Knights football team that is currently 7-2 is one of their best in recent history. Mount Vernon did have great football teams, in the pre-AB Davis and Edison Tech days of the 1920's. Their great coach was “Dad” White and when I was in high school, Class of 1963, he was still talked about by the old-timers Ed Williams, Lorenzo Thomas, and Al Cain. 


One of the great stars to come out of MVHS in the 1920's was Frank Carideo, who later became Knute Rockne's last All-America at quarterback (In 1930 Notre Dame went 10-0-0, had a winning streak of 19 and claimed their 3rd consecutive national championship with an ecumenical lineup that included star running backs Martin Brill and Marchmont  “Marchy” Schwartz.) Frank Carideo came back to Davis and was invited to speak to us by our gym teacher and my baseball coach Bill Sywetz.


In 1963 MVHS existed only on paper accept for their sport's teams. Because of the school merger we were suddenly able to compete with our old natural rivals New Rochelle, and White Plains. In wrestling, we were 13-1 and we slaughtered them both on our way to the first of five straight Section I titles. In basketball we had an excellent team that beat New Rochelle twice and split with White Plains in spite of their great high-scoring, high school All-American Mal Graham, who later went on to star at NYU, and play for the Celtics. But our real glory came on football gridiron where we were 6-1. Led by Ray Johnson, Jim Finch, Noel McFarland, Tony Taddey, Bob Spana, and others. We only lost to Port Chester, because of our team being decimated by the flu. That great team, led by our rookie coach Gene Ridenour, with his assistants, the late Joe LaRocca and the late great Henry Littlefield, beat both archrivals New Rochelle and White Plains for the first time since 1948. The exuberant overflowing crowd rushed onto the Huguenot’s field and tore down the wooden goal posts. The next day, the principal, Dr. Howard Spalding, asked that the “hooligans” who pilfered the goalposts return them to the New Rochelle field immediately. Of course, little did Dr. Spalding know, that the goal posts were reduced to bare kindling! In fact I had a 10″ piece of that hallowed wood for a number of years, with the date written on it red! It disappeared without a trace when my parents moved from Mount Vernon some years later. That team was quite good, and I am sure that over the next forty years or so, we probably only had one, or two seasons, where we were able to beat both White Plains and New Rochelle. Of course this year's team (2004) has a chance to avenge, in the Section I finals, their earlier 48-6 loss to the Huguenots. Until they do that, the 1963 edition must be still considered the best since the 1920's (MVHS was handily beaten by the Purple Wave in the Sections.)


Memorial Field was always an exciting place for me. I was able to play my first baseball games under the lights during the summers and also get eaten alive by the mosquitoes. This was long before some genius had invented “Off.” It was here I hit two homeruns, in the Pony Grad semi-finals off Patsy Argentina, who during the school year pitched for our cross-town rival Edison Tech. Memorial Field also played host to the legendary Eddie Feigner and his remarkable “King and His Court” team. This remarkable 4-man softball team always took on the best our locals could muster. Invariably, “The King” would strike out batters from 2nd base while being blindfolded. The “King and His Court” were beyond remarkable.


I also got see the old Mount Vernon Eagles play semi-pro football with my great friend Randy Forrest as one of their stars. Randy with his life-long friend, the late great Johnny Counts had made mincemeat out of AB Davis in the middle 1950’s when they both starred for New Rochelle, and their legendary Coach Lou Amunson. Later on Randy became an assistant wrestling coach to the fabulous aforementioned Henry Littlefield, and when Hank retired and moved on to Amherst in September of 1967, Randy became MVHS’s head wrestling coach and led the now named “Knights” to even more greatness. (Today, in 2006, I play tennis under the bubble covering the courts at Memorial Field and as I walk down the stairs I look wistfully out to that old field and remember years gone by.)



Sledding on Mersereau and Bowling in Boston 3-13-06

Sledding on Mersereau and Bowling in Boston


Richard J. Garfunkel

March 13, 2006



In the mid 1950’s weather seemed to be a lot worse. Maybe “global warming” hadn’t started to make its inroads on the polar icecaps and the Greenhouse Affect was more about keeping one’s plants germinating is a small backyard improvised hot box. For some reason I remember snow being on the ground all through the winter. Whenever that first snowfall came our way, the weather stayed cold until a January thaw and then our region would get hit again.


During one rotten winter, when I was about 11, I was playing in front of my house at 500 East Prospect Avenue, Mount Vernon, NY and my gold pinkie ring, which my grandfather had given me, slipped off into the snow. I frantically looked for it, but for the life of me I just couldn’t find it in that 12-inch mound of fluff. I have no memory of what happened next, or for a matter of fact, what I said or didn’t say to my mother. My father would have had no clue about the ring at all. The moral of the story is that when the snow finally melted in March, and as I was leaping down our front steps, I noticed a glint of reflected light in the lawn, and lo and behold, there was the ring. I am still wearing it at this very writing, some 50 years later. It had to be re-sized at least twice. In fact, on one of those occasions, it was done by Leonard Perelman, of Talner Jewelers. Leonard, a wonderful guy whose family once owned the Bromley Stores, and was the father of my old friend Lewis. Later on he and his wife Ruth became close friends of my wife Linda and I.


But getting back to those 1950 winters. In those days when a nor’easter blew into town, school was invariably closed, the roads remained basically unplowed for a day or so, and the Department of Sanitation that was responsible for plowing did not have the sophisticated melting agents that are so prevalent today. In other words the hills were alive with sound of sleighing. That was the era of Flexible Flyers, garbage can covers and for the financially challenged, flattened cardboard boxes. On those special days the best streets in my neighborhood to sled were Prospect, Sidney, Esplanade and Mersereau.


On Prospect and Esplanade where there were bigger houses, long driveways and larger garages no one parked on the street, so sledding was a bit safer. Sidney was a bit dangerous because it was very steep but short and it ran into a few other streets. The real challenge was Mersereau, which was a long straight street, but many people parked on both sides of the street. There were scores of kids around in those days of larger families and Mersereau was teeming with potential Olympic hopefuls. If you road your sled feet first, in the “luge” position you were more conservative. If you steered with your hands and therefore went down the street headfirst, this would be considered the “skeleton” position. One of the bolder youngsters who lived on that street was one Jimmy Stark. His name had an onomatopoetic ring to it. In German “stark” means strong and in German and Yiddish a “schtarker” was a “strong one.”  Even though I was not one to duck a fight or open my mouth to many, Jimmy Stark was one I chose to avoid at most times. Well on one of these cold snowy days he took his sled down Mersereau and had the poor fortune to slide out of control and to run his head into the sharp edge of a parked car’s chrome bumper. In retrospect I cannot say that I was terribly unhappy about his misfortune, and to many it seemed like a reasonable case of “divine justice.” Eventually young Mr. Stark came away with a long scar on his forehead and it brought his appearance more in line with his demeanor. I always thought of him as being like Cary Grant’s crazy brother Jonathan in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Of course this was an impression of mind when I was 11 or 12.


As I can recall Jimmy Stark did not attend the public schools in Mount Vernon and I never saw him ever at AB Davis High School so I assume he was not there. Eventually, years later, I did hear his name and saw him strolling in and around the Commonwealth Avenue campus of Boston University. But if we talked I have no recollection.


One day I went to the Student Union with a close friend named Andrew Mandell, now a local Judge from in and around Bolton, Massachusetts, who hailed from Utica, New York. Andy was a top-notch bowler, who scored at a high enough level to compete in the NCAA’s. He wanted to practice at the basement lanes at the Student Union, and I was up for some of the same activity. As we started to bowl I noticed, on the enjoining lanes, a number of women were aggressively practicing. I didn’t pay much attention to them until the next time I accompanied Andy to bowl. Frankly I would have never thought to bowl on my own. Coincidently the same gals were bowling and I recognized one of the girls right away. She was quite amazing. I’m not particularly small, being close to 6’ 2” and then probably weighing 190 pounds. This young lady had to be almost all of my height and was very large on top. In fact she was incredibly buxom and though not skinny, by any sense of the word, was decently well proportioned. One could have easily characterized her as an “Amazon”. She was pleasant looking and as we bowled I was able to make some small talk and I learned a bit about why they were there. She was in the Boston University’s Sargeant College, School of Physical Therapy and was getting credits for an athletic activity. I never learned her name and I was a bit disappointed that when we went back again the next week the girls were gone. Either they changed times or the class had ended. Boston University is a big place, and one could easily not see a person twice in four years.


Some time passed and one evening I drove down to the Newberry Street area where there was a party in a Washington Street townhouse. I parked and walked into a typical railroad apartment jammed to the walls. The air was so cloudy with the haze of cigarette smoke that one could hardly breathe. In fact it was suffocating. After five minutes and a few drinks I became a bit lubricated and ready to bail out of this noxious den on iniquity.

Then as if by magic, out of the haze and on my way out to fresh air I meet my Amazonian friend from the lanes. I said hello and asked if she had the strength to stay? Frankly with her lungs she would have been polluted twice as fast as any one else.  She said “no” and asked me if I had any ideas. I said my car is parked nearby and we could leave and go anywhere she wished.  Once in the car, and out of the blue, she said, “Do you have anything to drink?”  Amazingly I had happened to have a pint of whisky in the car. (There was 21 year old drinking in Massachusetts, wherein New York the age limit was 18 in those days, and I was over 21 in my junior year.) I am positive that since that evening I have never had an “open” bottle of alcohol in any car I had ever owned.  I opened the glove compartment, and handed her the bottle. Without a slip or a hesitation she took the bottle to her mouth took a long straight swig. “Wow!” That was beyond remarkable.  I was astounded! I had never witnessed anything like that before, and frankly have never seen that type of boldness since. I took the bottle form her grasp, and without wiping it off took my own gulp. She took it back from me and without a blink of one’s eye; I asked her if she would like to see my apartment. She agreed and before she could rethink her decision I took off like a “bat out of hell” to Beacon Street. In a few short moments I passed by the 1200 Beacon Motel, turned right onto Saint Paul’s and made a short sharp left to 55 Parkman Street. I parked, escorted my new friend into my place and before long we got quite comfortable. I thought immediately of the old Phil Silvers’ line, when he was playing “Sgt. Bilko” and luck came his way, “Thank you G-d.” But funny things how the G-d’s become fickle and the fates quickly change. I suddenly got white hot in the forehead, my temperature soared and I became violently sick. Talk about the sublime turning to the ridiculous. To make a long story short and against every instinct that I possessed I had to muster up the strength to take her to her dorm. I have never felt so inadequate, but it must have been fated. I unfortunately still never knew her name.


I only saw her once again, and there she was, walking arm and arm, with my old nemesis from the snowy hills of Mount Vernon, Jimmy Stark. We passed like ships sailing in the night and I never looked back.

TE Lawrence, George Santayana and their Advice

TE Lawrence, George Santayana and their Advice


Richard J. Garfunkel

March 10, 2006




On the day Saigon fell to North Vietnamese troops in 1973, the British writer James Fenton founded a framed quotation on a wall of the abandoned and looted American Embassy: “Better to let them do it imperfectly than to do it perfectly yourself, for it is their country, their way, and your time is short.” The words were from T.E. Lawrence.

That quote is from The Assassin’s Gate, America in Iraq by George Packer.


It definitely tells a story. Of course the tale is an old one and it can probably be traced back to our earliest histories of conquest and occupation. One only has to go back to the Bible’s account of the Roman occupation of the Holy Land or Judea and in the words of Samuel Butler (1612-1680), “As the ancients say wisely, have care of the main chance, and look before you ere you leap; for as you sow, ye are like to reap.”


George Santayana said it and it has been repeated more often than not, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The sands of time are littered with the dust and bones of conquerors that forgot humility and “bit off more than they could chew.”  History has taught a cruel and harsh lesson about Empires and nation state’s that forget its lessons.


We therefore are paying the price in treasure, blood and national stability for an adventure that was not well planned or well prepared for. It is easy to romanticize back to the fictional age of chivalry and think that pushing aside the “bad guy” and rescuing the “damsel in distress” will put the stamp of “they lived happier ever after end” to it all. No, it is the complete reverse. It is more like Cape Fear with Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum. These struggles can reach ugly and devastating proportions to both sides and ultimately only draconian means can be used to bring them to a close. But even then, the so-called “close” may only be temporary. That temporary could last a generation or two, maybe. But often, especially with the clash of cultures the “loss of face” becomes the paramount issue that even transcends life itself. The suicide bombers in the Middle East are not unlike the young “Dive Wind” pilots of the kamikaze. They are front line combatants in a war for national honor, G-d, the triumph of their culture and their way of life. They represent a view that national or religious dishonor can never be tolerated or accepted. That death is preferable over dishonor.


So as Lawrence, a wise and experienced observer of that part of the world noted, “…for it is their country, their way, and your time is short.”


So what is the answer? What does one do when “the die is cast?” What does a nation state do once they have committed arms and treasure? That is the decision that ultimately must be made. What is the continued “risk, reward?” Can we sustain a never-ending, low-grade infection by treating the body with old cures from the last century or do we use a new concoction of advanced antibiotics? Of course, it again gets back to the commitment. Are the consequences of withdrawal ultimately worse than the constant drain accompanying further engagement?


Many thought the same about the quagmire that the Vietnam War had become. Many felt that we would be encouraging the Communists to strike somewhere else, and that they would eventually bring their social and political revolutions to the New World. The “Domino Theory” was constantly echoed by strategists of that era. Of course in the early part of the 20th century we quite often heard that that British wanted to be prepared to fight on the banks of the Rhine, not in their backyard. But of course even in the First World War concentrated dirigible attacks on London, foreshadowed the reality that one could not easily keep the fight in someone else’s back yard. The days of fighting in some far off place like the Crimea, or the Sudan, or Dienbienphu, or Peking or at Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, without having fear of being struck at home maybe long past. Of course even those actions, mostly forgotten by all except history buffs, had catastrophic political and social implications back home. People do not like to see their sons and daughters killed and maimed. People do not like to see their taxes go up and their debt balloon. People do not like to see their domestic tranquility broken and ruptured by the constant drumbeat of war. Most sane people understand that it can be, and often is, an ugly world with neighborhoods that are worse than others. But does one intentionally go into that bad neighborhood looking for trouble? Or does one step carefully over sleeping dogs as they lie?


As far back as the early years of the 1800’s the United States was faced with problems regarding “freedom of the seas.” This exercise of freedom was being challenged in the Mediterranean by the caliphs of the Algerine, and in 1803 Captain Stephen Decatur, on board the vessel Enterprise, set fire to the captured American frigate, the USS Philadelphia in the Tripolitan Harbor and that action precipitated the bombardment of Tripoli and subsequent land adventures of Lt. Presley O’Bannon and the Battle of Derna.


Eventually that issue was settled by treaty and resolved. So we know that our national long and short-term interests must be constantly weighed against our willingness to sacrifice. Today the stakes are a lot greater than they were at the time of the Barbary Coast and its brigands, but in the same way, as in the past, national interest must be carefully measured and weighed.


We all know that our interest in Iraq is not over sectarian violence, religious squabbles or territorial aggrandizement. It is over oil and more oil. The never-ending issue, regarding the sovereignty of the remaining area of the British Mandate, complicates the issue, but at the heart of it all, if there were no oil, no one would care a fig about the fate of the so-called Palestinians.


The issue at hand is simple; can we succeed there in spite of our miscalculations, mismanagement, under commitment of troops, porous borders, and the lack of cooperation of most of our friends? Have we let our opportunity to succeed slip from our grasp? Or was our effort and grandiose plan always doomed to failure? Right now if we unilaterally pull out today, will be there a civil war and will we have no control over the results? It seems obvious to most that civil war will ultimately break out no matter when we leave. If that is so, are we ever to leave? Just remember our long history in Iran and our doomed relationship with the Shah and his supporters.


There is no doubt that we are being told that eventually a national government of unity will be established, it will strengthen, and it will be supported by an Iraqi army that will bring a close to the chaos and bring order to the country. Will this be done within the context of Democracy? I doubt that anyone really believes that. But for sure our love affair with oil and its long-term implications will continue to drive our policies. We have little or no control over oil production in Russia, Nigeria, Venezuela, Indonesia and other non Middle Eastern lands. We also have little or no control over the increase in worldwide demand that is exacerbated by the emerging economies of China and India the population colossuses.   Therefore this need to keep the Middle East oil production flowing will force us to be a “big player” in that critical part of the world for the foreseeable future. We must not forget that the United States with less then 6% of the world’s population is consuming upwards of 25% of the world’s oil.


Does therefore this mean a never-ending commitment to this effort?



Letter to the NY Times-Barry Bonds and Friends 3-9-06

Letter to the Editor:


March 9, 2006


Re “Selig Puts Bonds And Book Under Further Review,” by Murray Chass (column, March 9)


As a life-long baseball fan, who has been watching the national pastime from 1951 until today, I have been disgusted and depressed by the next chapter of the Barry Bonds alleged steroid abuse story. Obviously since the mid 1990’s steroid abuse has changed the face and the veracity of the baseball record book. Any casual fan would know that it was virtually impossible that pitching could deteriorate so quickly that journeymen infielders could hit 25 and 30 homers in a season no less players like Sammy Sosa could suddenly hit an astronomical 292 homeruns in a five-year period from 1998 to 2002. In the five previous years he hit 170 homeruns. One just has to look at any record book and see the same aberrational numbers from Griffey, Bonds, McGwire, Giambi and others. My suggestion is that when the time comes for their potential elevation to the Hall of Fame, that future baseball writers, who are mesmerized by these phony numbers, wait to induct them posthumously. The same holds for Pete Rose. In that way these individuals won’t benefit in their lifetimes by that honor.


Richard J. Garfunkel

The Bridge Cafe to Gertel's on Hester Street 3-6-06

The Bridge Café to Gertel’s on Hester Street


Richard J. Garfunkel

March 6, 2006




New York City still remains a remarkable place no matter how old I get and how many changes the old town goes through. A few weeks ago we were down at the South Street Seaport Museum to see the macabre and fascinating “Bodies” Exhibition and had a “gift” certificate to eat at the Bridge Café. The cafe is located at 279 Water Street, one of the last remaining cobbled byways in New York City, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. Unfortunately the restaurant was not open and we decided to reschedule our visit to this quaint little eatery to another time in the future.


Well the future arrived today, and we arranged with my sister Kaaren, her husband Charles Hale and her married daughter Melissa, who was visiting from her home in Boston to meet us, and old friend Stan Goldmark (MVHS 1963) who was there when we arrived. We waited the few minutes until its doors opened at 11:45 am. Thankfully the morning was clear as crystal and the weather cooperated by moving up into the mid forties. Meanwhile one would think that one could find a parking space in and around that area, but incredibly none was to be had. It seems that there was a rumor that a movie was to be filmed in that same locale, and not was only was every space taken, but a mysteriously epidemic of orange cones were around almost all of the parked cars.


Stan had driven effortlessly over from Cold Spring Harbor and Kaaren and her family found their way down to the bowels of the South Street Seaport by car service. South Street may never be the same since the Fulton Fish Market was transferred up to the Bronx’s Hunt’s Point Market in 2005 after 184 years of continuous service to the fish mongering crowd. Of course it has been only a year since its closure and the stale malodorous memories of mackerel, marlin and other Neptunian delicacies still lingers about as the latent smells waif in and out one’s nostrils. Of course many native New Yorkers may remember Sweet’s and Sloppy Louie’s that used to be landmark culinary watering holes for generations down here on South Street. Sweet’s was destroyed by the December nor’easter that hit the city in 1992, and Louie’s went the way of the wrecker’s merciless and unsentimental ball in 1996.


But the Bridge Café, which is one of New York’s oldest restaurants, dating from around 1790 with its tin ceiling, has survived many changes since Washington was inaugurated in New York and said his famous “Farewell to His Officers” speech in 1783 at the reconstructed Fraunces Tavern, which is located not far away at 54 Pearl Street. (A bomb planted by the FALN, a Puerto Rican ultra nationalist group on January 24, 1975 destroyed Fraunces Tavern, in part, killing four and wounding 50. It has been reconstructed more then restored and currently is still a full functioning eatery.)


Meanwhile back to the meal. Within a few minutes after meeting our waiter, whom I have since learned was really an actor (tress) posing as a waiter, we ordered from the brunch menu and the place was quickly filled to capacity. I had a “hanger steak” and scrambled eggs. Just so you know a “hanger steak” is reminiscent of a Romanian steak that you can still find in some Jewish or Greek diners here and there. Everyone else seemed to opt for the omelets. Before long our drinks arrived, the talk became animated about one thing or another, and the main repast was served. For the life of me I am not sure what we talked about. Usually it is politics, the social order or baseball, but I do recall we touched a bit on the insane cost of higher education. Since Stanley has a daughter still in college, at Syracuse University, it was basically a dispassionate approach from the rest of us whose children have been long out of school.


Well the meal ended successfully, we all strolled out into the wonderful daylight sun of a crisp March early afternoon, where upon I posed every one for a photo. The Hales were off to see my mother and we had other plans. We were going to go to the Brooklyn Museum, but since the meal ran a bit late we decided to stroll around the bleakish South Street Seaport. If it was something special in the past, it certainly no longer holds any real allure. Unlike the restorations in Baltimore Harbor where the Constellation, sister ship to “Old Ironsides”, the Constitution is at birth, the old Philadelphia Naval Yard where the Olympia is docked, and the fabulous Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall in Boston, the South Street Seaport is more like a worn-out shoe.


So after walking around for a few minutes, we parted from Stan and decided to head up to the Lower East Side and look for Guss’s Pickles. We drove north on Pearl Street which becomes the Bowery right after old Delancy Street. Once past Canal we made our way up to Houston and turned east towards Essex. I was convinced that Guss’s was located there. Once on Essex Street we did pass the Pickleman and his barrels, but I was not satisfied and we continued the whole length of Essex until Hester without seeing the famous Guss’s Pickles (85-7 Orchard Street, founded in 1910 by Izzy Guss, a Russian immigrant. The Dutch grew cucumbers in Brooklyn in 1659 and started to pickle the cukes not long after.) Linda had a back up target and that was the famous Jewish bakery, Gertels. Lo and behold as I passed Hester, I looked quickly down the block and there was the old weathered Gertels sign hanging in the breeze a few stores into the block. I stopped, let the young lady out and told her I would circle the block. Just in case I couldn’t do it easily, we both had our cell phones handy. The trip around to Orchard Street and then a right on to Hester not only was effortless, but as if by wizardry, a space opened up right in front of Gertels (53 Hester Street, founded in 1914). As I parked Linda emerged with bag in hand, and was quite fortunate to get the last onion board and rye bread. With a space in hand, we opted to search for the “king of pickles.” Walking up Hester we turned right on Orchard Street, which is still very representative of the old Jewish Lower east Side. I had been down in this area many times in the early 1970’s when I was in the home fashion textile business. I spent many interesting and enlightening hours visiting the now long gone center of Jewish retailing, on and around, Grand Street. It is all Chinese and Asian now with only the ghosts of Shoreland, Eldridge and Penchina Texile lingering about on the old brick facades of the hundred plus year old buildings. Grand Street is now just another commercial street branching off from the heart of Chinatown and its bustling energy. 


Heading down Orchard Street we were “roped” into an orthodox-run men’s store that was right out of the 1950’s. It was an experience to say the least. We had some common ground since the wife of the proprietor was from Boro Park and she shopped at, and knew my friend and customer Gitta Steinmetz and her tablecloth business. I was sorry I didn’t really need anything they had, but we did learn that Guss’s was not far up the block. Within a few more moments the “Promised Land” was reached, Linda was now in charge as I took some more pictures and watched a television interview with one of the current owners. Pickled tomatoes, half-sour and sour pickles and stuffed olives were sealed up tight and packed away. We had achieved our culinary goal. We had traversed both extremes of European culinary heaven. On one hand, we brunched in heart of old Americana with its English style cuisine, and then we found the remnants of the old eastern European Jewish culinary basics, bread and pickles. What could be more delightful? 

Another Republican Declares Independendence from George W. Bush 3-1-06


Another Republican Declares his Independence From George W. Bush!

(What took him so long?)


Richard J. Garfunkel

March 1, 2006




What else is new? But he said that he will never vote for GWB again. When will he have that opportunity, as a member of some future parole board? rjg


So many so-called decent people prostituted themselves for low taxes on the super-rich, the end to inheritance taxes, basically affecting and benefiting the super-rich, the exporting of jobs to help their bottom lines, and their own pocket books. In Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s seminal work on FDR, and in his book the “Crisis of the Old Order,” he documents the economic collapse that presaged the Great Depression, driven by a cacophony of greed and the blindness of the laissez-faire driven Harding-Coolidge-Hoover world. Of course, as in that day, the worship of money and power fed the arrogance of social and cultural superiority. In a sense, Sinclair Lewis in his novel “It Can't Happen Here” described how we could even go the way of the European dictators, as they sought a totalitarian cure to the social and economic ills, emanating from the Depression, that caused unbridled civil unrest. In the United States in the late 1920's this attitude of spending, unlimited credit (the growth and the universality of the “installment plan” of buying), the markets being bloated by stocks bought on “margin” (10% down and 90% borrowed) caused this frenzy of unrealistic optimism. Live for today, and let tomorrow be damned. The Europeans who barely recovered from WWI were dragged down by their false hopes that German reparations would support their economies forever. When the credit markets in first Austria and then Germany collapsed and the debt payments ceased, the gravy train of false hope and expectation ran off the tracks So, in the end, the age of dictators came forth: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, the Soviet Union, Poland to a degree as was the Yugoslavian monarchy, and finally Germany and then their new vassal state Austria. They solved their problems through the “iron fist.”  Who was left? England (GB), France, Czechoslovakia, and the Latvian states, along with the neutrals and the Scandinavian mini-states. But the ultimate clash between the dictators and the democracies fulfilled Oswald Spengler's grim prophecy in his book “The Decline of the West.”


More or less the Great Depression, that was the heir to the past World War and the foolish policies that followed, led to the age of dictatorships, the era of bigger, better armaments, the alliances of convenience and philosophy, and the inevitable coming of the 2nd World War. 


Here we are today in the states with a moronic President and his administration of free-spending pinheads. They have turned a surplus driven government into a saturated debtor economy that has divided itself into rich and poor. It has exported jobs; it has tolerated broken borders to allow cheap labor into the country with the resulting gutting of the wages of the average worker. This attitude of benign neglect serves to satiate the needs of the corporate farm, the big restaurant chains, and the over-bloated debt-ridden hospital empire. And in the meanwhile, have our real costs gone down? No! These onerous costs are seen on the local level, where property and sales taxes are stretching the poor and dropping the middle class into lower middle class status. But Federal taxes remain low, and the administration promises to keep them low. He and his cronies’ promises to allow trillions to pass untaxed into the hands of the next generation of his friends, supporters and sycophants. What are the states left with? We continue to be left with more, and more, un-funded mandates from the Federal government, an over-bloated an ineffective educational system, and an out of control Medicaid debt. And how is this debt manifested and where is the money going? Well it is going down the “money pit” in Afghanistan and Iraq! In Afghanistan alone $76 billion is being used to support 19,000 troops. But where is the spending to rehabilitate the country and to wean the peasant folk away from the Taliban? It is non-existent. And what is the result? There is more and more unrest, poverty, hunger and unemployment. The poppy fields abound, the “law and order” of the villages is administered by the Taliban and the people are more and more comfortable with them (The Taliban) then they are with us, or the bureaucrats in Kabul.  Of course how much of that $76 billion is being looted? No one knows. In the same way that no one knows how much is being looted in Iraq. Iraq is a mess. Their oil is not being pumped, the people are being hardened against us and the government (whether our puppet or not) is incapable of unifying the country. It has the possibility of descending into a civil war with our troops caught in the middle.


But what about what is happening in our fair land? Business as usual, what else is new? New Orleans is still a disaster and still unprotected from the next storm season. The bread and circus of Mardi Gras cannot mask their unhealed sores and wounds. Our ports are being turned over to fellow travelers of our enemies and our trade deficits are approaching $900 billion a year. No wonder foreign governments and their companies can buy up America, What else are they going to do with their mountains of dollars? How are the Feds dealing with our debt? Just look and see how they have raised fees, regarding the National Parks, passports, stamps, and et al, over $47 billion. But they don't call these raising taxes. But whom do these fees fall on the most? The middle and lower middle classes! The bloated Homeland Security Department is no less a domestic “money pit” then our foreign policy adventurism. But while we are bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are losing influence everywhere else. The problems of Iran, North Korea, Burma, and the rest of the unstable Muslim world haven't gone away. These problems are worse then ever. On top of this the quality of life in America continues to erode for our progeny and the people caught betwixed and between. Not only does the next generation see a threat to their civil liberties, but also this generation sees our private pension and healthcare safety nets in as much trouble as our public entitlements. The Enron's and WorldCom's may be just a foreshadowing of what's to come.


So I'm glad a GOP stalwart finally awakened when he realized that the UAE was not really our buddy, but a trading partner and client of GWB and his family friends. Maybe now he should wake up to the rest of the disaster sponsored by this poorest excuse of a leader!


WILL WONDERS NEVER CEASE…Finally a DEVOUT Republican has come to his senses!   There may be hope for others to finally wake up!!!   The BUSH Dynasty has done horrific damage to our country!!!

Arab Port Whine
by Irwin N. GraulichMarch 1, 2006Never trust men wearing long white sheets who hate Jews. Burning crosses and boycotting a tiny, democratic state called Israel are actually part of the same cancer. Not because it is Israel, but because “it is!”Now those United Arab Emirates cry babies, who were born with a silver gas nozzle in their mouth, are crying like spoiled little children. They may not get the big US port toy deal. How sad.They sent out the big guns including the Viagra man, Bob Dole. Every man has to make a living, but Bob please. Viagra is one thing; the hard ons in the Middle East are quite another. Secretary of State Albright just does not recognize evil when she sees it, evidence her bar mitzvah-like toastings with Kim Jong Il and her incredible failures in negotiating with that nation. It is no surprise that she has prostituted herself to this oil rich kingdom, attempting to show Congress what a wonderful, safe “John Emirate” she represents.George W. Bush will never get my vote again, but he does not care what the public thinks. This deal is crazy. You want to talk scandal. Watergate and Lewinsky are small potatoes. On Portgate, every time you turn over another rock, more maggots come crawling out.You have the Carlyle Group involved, a company where Bush Sr. was an advisor. They received an $8 billion investment last year from Dubai International Capital. Neal Bush, the president's brother has been in bed with the UAE for quite some time, including getting backing for Ignite!, his educational software company.The only incompetent Bush brother, after being involved with the scandal ridden S & L's of the 80's, has been a guest of the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, where he lectured on education. Has Neil checked the textbooks which speak quite disparagingly about Christians and Jews? That in itself could be part of the reason for their educational failures.Wait, it gets worse. President Bush chose a Dubai Ports World executive, David Sanborn, to head the US Maritime Administration and the Secretary of the Treasury, John Snow, was former chairman of CSX Corporation, a company who sold their port operations to Dubai Ports World. Secretary Snow has gone on record to push this latest Dubai Ports World deal by claiming that “12 American agencies have ruled out security concerns.” Hey John, that is what we call a “Snow job” where I come from in Brooklyn.This is nuts. What is going on here? When Jimmy Carter backs your position, as he “lovingly” spoke of President Bush's port decision on CNN's Situation Room, you better be extremely careful. I never thought I would say this but, “Thank God for Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton,” who are looking very good.However, it is the American people who are the heroes on this one. They will not permit such incompetence to coalesce. The government employees including Bush, Cheney, Snow and the various departments who investigated this transaction only see one thing. Could this deal impact the security at six major ports? Of course an educated answer to that question at present is “No.” However, if all one sees is “port security” in this decision, then you have lost your American soul.The United Arab Emirates continues to rip us off with high oil prices, claiming they are “our partners in fighting terrorism and are kindly (sic) allowing us to use their military bases.” What a scam. If not for our planes and ships in the area, Iran would have done the exact same thing to the UAE that Saddam did to Kuwait. Just check out Iran's claims on that country. The UAE should be paying us for saving their pathetic little lives.It was the UAE that served as an operational and financial base for the 9/11 hijackers and 2 of the hijackers were proud natives. Records show that the UAE has been a transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components bound for Iran, North Korea and Libya. How about this little tidbit–only 5 years ago, the United Arab Emirates was one of only three countries in the world to recognize the Taliban government in Afghanistan.And yet, there are intelligent people in the American administration who actually believe that this Middle Eastern autocracy should be involved with our port operations. What these intelligent fools never ask, but the American people understand, is why is this deal so important to an oil rich nation of greedy rulers? First of all, buying the London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. by the Emirates state-owned Dubai Ports World is no great moneymaker. There are much better ways to invest $6.8 billion, just ask Goldman Sachs.What the President and every government worker down the line have failed to understand is the simple fact that buying access to our ports is part of the humiliation process that is being attempted against America. The Arab and Muslim world absolutely hates us, and the reasons have little to do with Iraq or even Israel.This mature, old world sees America as a young, highly sexual, undisciplined child who needs to be reigned in due to bad values and sexual mores. However, Arab/Muslim children see MTV and Hollywood movies and want to be part of our incredibly successful, exciting, strong world, that is dominated by Western technology. Well, those chic (sic) Sheikh rulers want to show their people that they can control the Americans by buying them, whether it is through the acquisition of part interest in FOX News, or through this port deal.It is also a way of showing that they really have not remained in the dark ages of hi-tech because they are part of American business operations; and ports–well, pretty important. However, what was the last hi-tech device coming out of the Arab/Muslim world–an abacus?Modern sophisticated electrical devices are viewed as successful “weapons” of the West over this mysterious, religiously obsessed, ancient world. These devices are an affront to the fact that this region is nowhere in the technological revolution.Therefore, the best solution is to buy companies that wind up taking over important operations, through which the Arab and Muslim world will get their prestige and honor. It is the only way they can fight the West. Buying General Motors is out of the question because of SEC regulations, thank God. After all, private industry is much wiser than government.Make no mistake about it. This is not a business move. It is predominately an ego driven, military like move. Very sneaky. The United Arab Emirates comes from a world that is technologically retarded, so they purchase big companies to make them feel important and all grown up. However, there is a contradiction that must be worked out in this religious vacuum.Technological innovation is seen as the Western devil's work, yet welcomed. The rationale is that the West can be defeated, in part, through purchasing them…but then you become part of them. And here comes the real danger which they fear most. When Arabs and Muslims actually move to America, they become Americans first…they become one of us.As virtually every Arab and Muslim family I know says, ” Don't bother me with that religious fanaticism crap. I am taking my family to Disneyworld!” That is absolutely Osama's greatest fear.Irwin N. Graulich – is a regular contributor to JewishIndy. He is a well known motivational speaker on morality, ethics, Judaism, religion and political issues. He is President and CEO of a leading corporate communications, marketing and branding company located in New York City. Irwin considers himself a multi-denominational, serious Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jew. He can be reached at