Open and Shut Case

OK, so rumor has it that, “Those Immigrants!,” my latest book, might–might–be translated into Hindi, and I am so OK with that, you’ve no idea.  On top of that, I just finished a piece on environmental degradation in Japan to produce perfect products with the important caveat that once the younger generation is permitted–men and women–to have economic authority, things will change.  All in all, what’s not to like?

Bonus: I’m mid-way through Branko Milanovic’s, “Global Inequality,” which was published last month, and its insights about disparities within nation and between nations are pretty darn spellbinding.  I have no idea how, “Emma,” which is next up will be able to compete for my attention.

Speaking of next up: i Sodi, Scotchie’s, il Buco Alimentari, Rubiroso.


Troy & Albany

I’ll miss visits to these two cities.  The past four years–has it really been that long?–I’ve come here to visit many times.  Albany has a destitute, turn of the nineteenth century, then pre-war, then post-industrial feel and gloom to it.  The architecture is stunning in areas, and its parks are deeply arboreal.  Population, lacking access, not prepared for today’s challenges (nor yesterday’s), so lots of glowering and an undercurrent of disengagement.

On the other side of the river is Troy, glorious Troy, home of the Trojans, once so famous that it was the subject of Homer’s profound work on love and war.  It moved on from ancient times to become the Collar Capital of the world.  Nowadays, there’s Dino BBQ, one of my favorite restaurants in the country, no kidding, with views of the Hudson and a wily staff with tats who serve up first-rate ribs and brisket and very good sides.

All around is the countryside, some with Dutch names, lots of beautiful farms, hardscrabble lives, people may need to go day to day tending to crops and being involved in animal husbandry.

Brand X

Tax on sugar in Philadelphia.  Gillian Anderson as the next Jane Bond.  Monsanto rejects buy-out offer from Bayer.  Milanovic’s new book on global inequality.  How is anyone supposed to keep up?

Perhaps it’s best to get a spade and dig a deep hole and find a wooden top and stay there counting earthworms.

Where’s a filter when it’s needed?

On the other hand…

One can provide some kind of focus, however blurry, that acts as a de facto filter.  Defining or at least identifying interests that might aggregate and provide a map to guide one through each day.

That’s something I’ve tried to inculcate over the years.

Have I Changed?

People want go know: “Have you changed since becoming a winner in Monopoly at Shaw’s supermarket?”  I don’t think so, I really don’t.  Sure, my step is a little lighter, there’s more bounce in my walk, a steady glint in my eye, but I think that fundamentally I’m still the same person.  I don’t think of myself as better than anyone else, I don’t think that winning at Monopoly makes me special.

“How did it happen?”  People want to know.  Well, like most other people I got Monopoly stamps when I shopped at Shaw’s and collected them.  I didn’t stick them into the Monopoly booklet each time–provided free of charge at Shaw’s–and waited until yesterday to add all at once.  That’s when I found out I was a winner.

My reaction?  Mild disbelief at first.  That lasted maybe 20 seconds.  Then  a sense of redemption.  I’d played Monopoly at Shaw’s before.  Last year, I think it was, and I won exactly nothing.  N-O-T-H-I-N-G.  So winning this year felt like: Yeah, that’s right, I’m a winner.

“Did you do anything special?” Good question.  No, not really,  In fact, I went often to the Self Check Out where no Monopoly stickers are given.  In retrospect, was that a good decision?  I think so.  I think time is as valuable as money, and I made that choice.  Maybe to compensate, and perhaps unconsciously, I did purchase those grocery items that gave double stickers: Not always, and not if I didn’t need the product.  But given two products, one with double stickers and one without?  I think it’s fair to say that most people would choose the double sticker item.

When I presented my winning booklet to the person at Customer Service in Shaw’s, I could see that she was impressed and it seemed a little shocked.  Those reactions may account for the fact that she didn’t offer congratulations.  I’m not taking that personally.  Also, no photos, no interviews.

She had to go to the back to talk things over with someone higher up: I didn’t see who that was, but I’m guessing it was a store manager.  After a couple of trips back and forth to consult with the person, she handed me a sheet of paper to choose my prize.

Step back a sec’: Was I nervous with all the back and forth?  Did I think that somehow I wouldn’t win?  That I’d done something wrong?  A little, I’ll admit it.  But I didn’t let it show.

I was given a choice of a gift card to about twelve places.  At first, I chose a credit for my American Express card, but then I thought: No, this ought to be personal and specific.

So I’m now the owner of a $25 gift card to Fandango and can use it towards the movie of my choice.  I can envision myself going online, choosing the picture, and putting in the code, and then?  Then a winner goes to the movies with the date of his choice.

Maybe I have changed.  Maybe the change will be observable to others before it is to me.  I hope, if that’s the case, that the change makes me more accepting, and more aware of the role that luck plays in our lives.


I’m the keynote speaker this morning at the annual Indiaspora conference.  It’s being held in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia.  This is Indiaspora:

The gathering of people whose achievements are remarkable is really energizing.  Not just the achievements, but the versatility of thinking, the cross-fertilization of ideas.  A person with a doctoral degree in physics who is head of the Sanskrit society in the U.S.  A graduate in English who does stand-up comedy.  Policy-makers, teachers, urban planners, writers.  Thinkers wide and far.

And did I mention that the food last night was fresh and delicious, principally vegetarian, robust in flavor, and balanced in heat, texture, and color?

We Interrupt Regular Programming…

The NY Observer ran a piece yesterday that I wrote about my book, “Those Immigrants!”–

And on FB & Twitter there are literally hundreds of people calling attention to the work.

Meanwhile, closer to home, it was really delicious American waygu cheeseburgers on poppy seed Kaiser rolls from Boston’s best bakery: Clear Flour.  I thought of watching the OKC-GSW game, and then didn’t.  Tonight Lebron will wreak havoc on the hapless Raptors.

Yeah, so better to stay in and write.  The news is getting out on the book about immigration; a couple of rabid comments appear on the Observer piece.  Kind of obvious and intriguing that there are 100,000 illegal Irish immigrants in Boston, but not a word about Europeans when the shouting starts.


“Those Immigrants!”  That’s the link you need to order the book, which is available on AMAZON as of today.  It’s paperback and eBook, and if you want to the latter, that’s even better.

Closer to home, it’s pan-seared Sicilian yellowfin tuna with shallots, red wine vinegar, and a little sugar along with a sauté of spinach and garlic and thinly sliced rainbow beets.

The timing of my book is sadly fortuitous, and don’t be surprised if the sad fortuitousness gets even sadder and more fortuitous.  I had thought that the Obama presidency would last one term and that like Weimer it would usher in a backlash like this country never saw before.  I hope I’m wrong again, but it looks like I was off by four years.

Tonight it’s American waygu cheeseburgers, oven roasted baby Yukon’s, and iceberg lettuce with fresh blue cheese.

Summer Advent

I’m supposed to be writing about, “Those Immigrants!,” my latest book, which came out last week, but other than noting that it’s excerpted in The Observer this week, was written about in Psychology Today last week, and is the focus of a keynote talk I’m giving this Saturday in Philadelphia at a national conference for prominent Indian-Americans, what’s there to say?

The temps have been cool the past few days, cool even, it’s like: Heat on in the morning, but then by the end of the day, it’s A/C.

Not that the weather is what is on my mind.  I don’t get out much.  Finished reading the astonishing, “Novel with Cocaine,” recommended by Knausgaard, last week, an anonymous work written a century ago that is funny, smart, dissolute, and the perfect companion for anyone who can read and feel alienated at the same time.  It’s just about 200 years since Emma was published, and that’s next on the docket.

Accompanying all this are asparagus spears, white and as thick as batons, flown in from northern Europe.  Steam these for a few minutes, let cool, then roast at 350 F for about ten minutes.  You have to eat them with a knife a fork and nothing–nothing–tastes better.


Between the Sheets

Between sheets of paper from my new book, “Those Immigrants!,” out this week, I’m simply reading a great deal and trying as best I can to avoid distractions.  So far, so good.

Finished Volume 5 of, “My Struggle,” by Knausgaard, which was an astonishment for a writer.  Encouraging, depressing, high and low, tragic and extremely painful to read.  In the work he suggests, I think, the work of Emmanuel Bove, and I read his wonderful and fascinating stories on Sunday, then started, “Pan,” by Knut Hamsun, also recommended by Knausgaard.  Books where internal dialogue and authorial pain temper overtly the observations.

And, of course, it’s morel season.  One local store, Russo’s, has them at $29 a pound.  That’s far better than the snooty cold cuts and cheese shop for the rich where they are sold at about $60.  Same mushrooms at twice the price, but I suppose the exclusivity of shopping there adds frisson.

Morels are delightful in a risotto, baked in little phyllo cups you can buy at the supermarket, in a vegetable soup, tossed with linguine, and in a light sauce with chicken.