Month: March 2020

On Lenox Ave

My girlfriend and I are holed up in Harlem, just south of its epicenter at 125thand Lenox Ave, a.k.a. Malcom X Blvd.  Since there are no delivery dates available from any purveyor until far into next week (I write on March 31), I’ve been going out to shop for groceries every three or four days at 7:00 AM, when Whole Foods opens its doors for one hour to customers 60 years and older, then lets the less vulnerable in to hunt and gather. There’s a police-style metal barricade that runs 50 feet west on 125thStreet from Lenox, channeling us senior citizens into a socially-distanced single file so that security guards can check our ID.  Once inside, it’s clear sailing–the aisles are bustling with employees stocking the shelves or filling carts with food for delivery, but the masked customers are few, no more than 20 percent of the store’s current population. Outside–a security guard has to let you out–there are even fewer civilians.  Used to be that at any given morning hour, dozens of addicts of all kinds would be gathered on the corner of 124th, waiting for the rehab/detox clinic behind Whole Foods to open.  Not yesterday.  Maybe three or four old guys waving canes, talking trash, smoking cigarettes.  The hallal truck wasn’t there, either, nor the tented vegetable stand.  Suddenly you can feel a lot of social distance...

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The Modern Decameron, Book 3

Filomena goes next, with another story of another Jew, Melchisadech, who also must reckon with Christianity as both a moral problem and an intellectual prospect.   Filomena frames it as a story within a story within a story, because now all three of the great monotheistic religions that rose on the southern and eastern extremities of the Mediterranean are in play–as competitors for the loyalties of people on the verge of the end times, all desperate for the right answer to the wrong question, which is, who or what will save us? In The Decameron story, Saladin the Saracen summons Melchisadech to a meeting where the intricacies of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity–the last for once absent an advocate–will be debated, as preface to an offer that can’t be refused.  If your answer is wrong, Saladin says in so many words, I’ll have you hounded or imprisoned, whereupon, as Sultan, I will seize your assets (these are liquid because Melchisadech the Jew, is, of course, a money lender).  If your answer is right, again in so many words, I’ll let you lend me money to pay off the debts my profligate kingdom has accumulated. Melchisadech responds with a story about debt, inheritance, forgiveness, and forbearance, about the man who would be King.  King Lear, that is. Yeah, I know.  So did old Will. Filomena leads with a playful critique of reason...

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Donald Trump, Wartime President

Donald Trump, Wartime President Cory Stockwell   I very much wish that Peter Wehner’s recent claim, made in The Atlantic, that “the Trump presidency is over” were true: not only do I disagree with most of the president’s policies, but I also think that much of the strongest criticism of him has come from Wehner and others on the “never Trump” right. But while I’m not arguing that the claim is false – Trump may very well lose to Joe Biden in November – I think not only that it is far too early to make such a pronouncement,...

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