Beat the Crowds: Go Shopping THIS Saturday!

WJFF, 90.5 FM, a jewel of Sullivan County and the nation’s only hydro-powered public radio station, is holding its annual fundraising music sale on Saturday, Nov. 19 from 11 a.m.  – 3 p.m. at the White Sulphur Springs Fire Hall. Admission is $2. You’ll find great buys on CDs, LPs, sheet music, books, musical instruments, vintage radios and audio and electronic equipment. You never know who you’ll meet at this event, so stop by for networking as well as for refreshments and tons of great bargains for the holidays.

Jill: Talk Normal!

Wow, have you heard any interviews yet with Jill Abramson, the new executive editor at The New York Times?! Granted, she’s probably all brilliant and everything, but i’m telling ya, THAT’S the voice you want automatically playing over your loudspeakers when kids come trick-or-treating. One listen and you know: This woman’s gotta be the unholy spawn of Diane Rehm and Katharine Hepburn.

“WELL-commmmme, chil-drehhhn!” It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to dive under your covers and hold your breath. (And i’m just talking about grownups.)

And then, she has  such an odd, creepy CADENCE, drawing out for what feels like an hour and a half, the last vowel sound (or consonant, if it can be held, like an “s” or an “m”) of every single sentence! One person who works for the Times  theorizes that she talks that way because while she’s holding that sound, you can’t butt in, because she’s still “speaking,” you know? And that gives her time to think of her NEXT sentence. I’ve heard ministers (and even one rabbi, but i forgave him, because he’s from the South) do the same thing.

Check out any radio interview with her (there was one recently on NPR; it must be archived by now) and see if you agree.

Newburgh’s Restaurant Inspection Results

Question of the Day: WHY does Orange County NOT put the results of its restaurant inspections on its website? Answer, from a very nice county health-department employee named Dave, who provided me with those results only after i filed a Freedom of Information Law request: No one knows. Other counties do it, but not Orange. “Maybe not enough people request them,” he suggested.

Here’s what i suggest: Do it! Till then, feast your eyes on the attached spreadsheet … if you can.  Dave emailed it to me, and it’s waaay to big for me to see all of it at once on my home computer. The Record used to run the results, sometimes on Page One, at least annually, but shamefully, has not done so for two years now. Why not? Call them and ask, please!

But first, let me give you just a few juicy tidbits from this spreadsheet. i have barely begun to look through it myself: It would take several days to do so as it’s, like, 200 pages long, with many, many columns on a page.  In equal parts hilarious and horrifying, it lists for each restaurant inspected this year, the violations (“M” for what they consider major and “MI” for minor) and, in some cases, whether or not those violations have been corrected. Let me jump right in and give you just a taste of what they found at some of our favorite restaurants in the City and Town of Newburgh.

First, i’m no doctor but here’s a suggestion for all HIV-positive food-preparers: Keep your medications off the “cook line.” I’m not even sure what a “cook line” is, but on Jan. 21, the county inspectors found Zidovudine and Kaletra (both used for treatment of  HIV) on the “cook line, stored on a shelf with food.” According to WebMD, these are medications that you really, really DON’T want falling into your food, as the list of side effects is several miles long and include, among the milder ones, irreversible liver and heart damage. Luckily for patrons of La Hacienda — the City of Newburgh nightspot where this violation occurred — the inspector reported, “Medication was removed to proper storage area.”

On a lighter note, one of my favorites was the entry for Sept. 29 for Jimmy’s Restaurant in the city: “WD-40 used to lubricate slicer; food-grade lubricant not provided.” Hey, look at the bright side:  If any kids pedal into the restaurant with a rusty bike chain, they’re all set. The inspector did add, however, “Practice discontinued.”

Of the hundreds of entries, many are rather common but a wee bit stomach-churning if you picture them in your head, like this one for Planet Wings on May 27: “Wiping cloths not stored in sanitizing solution (soiled cloths noted on food-prep table.”)

It wasn’t just the city whose eateries had violations. An inspection of Brother Bruno’s in the Town on Jan. 3  resulted in this entry: “Fly pest strips (with flies) hanging over food-prep tables.” And 2 Italian Mammas had “dry sausage (sopressata) and bread on top of the case with no protection.” Jeez, what is this world coming to, if we don’t have the decency to protect our innocent sopressata?

And Newburgh International Buffet surely should win some kind of prize for having “black mold … growing in wall-ceiling junctions above buffet tables.” I liked that the inspector added, “Owner says they clean it off occasionally.” But if that takes the cake, i hope they don’t get it from La Amistad I in the City, where on Jan. 10 the county found “rodents present; droppings observed in floor-wall junction in bakery area.”

Well, so much for My Big Idea: i see now that i can’t copy-and-paste that whole, huge spreadsheet into this little blog. So, here’s a work-around:  If you’re interested, just let me know your email address, and i’ll send it to you. It’s really a treasure, and i’m glad to share.

Random Amazing Story i Found on the Web

The Leica is the  pioneer 35mm camera. It is a German product – precise, minimalist, utterly efficient. Behind its worldwide acceptance as a creative tool was  a family-owned, socially oriented firm that, during the Nazi era, acted with  uncommon grace, generosity and modesty.

Ernst Leitz II, the steely-eyed Protestant patriarch who headed  the closely held Leica-producing  firm as the Holocaust loomed across Europe, was essentially the photography industry’s  Schindler.  As soon as Adolf Hitler was named chancellor of Germany in  1933, Leitz II began receiving frantic calls from Jewish associates,  asking for his help in getting them and their families out of the country.  As Christians, Leitz and his family were immune to Nazi Germany’s  Nuremberg laws, which restricted the movement of Jews and limited  their professional activities. To help his Jewish workers and  colleagues, Leitz quietly established “the Leica Freedom Train,” a covert means of allowing  Jews to leave Germany in the guise of Leitz employees being assigned  overseas.  Employees, retailers, family members, even friends of family  members were “assigned” to Leitz sales offices in France, Britain, Hong Kong  and the United States, Leitz’s activities intensified after Kristallnacht in November 1938, when synagogues and Jewish  shops across Germany were burned.  Before long, German “employees”  were disembarking from the ocean liner Bremen at a New York pier and making  their way to the Manhattan office of Leitz Inc., where executives quickly  found them jobs in the photographic industry.  The  refugees were paid a stipend until they could find work. Out of  this migration came designers, repair technicians, salespeople, marketers  and writers for the photographic press.

The “Leica Freedom Train” was at its height in 1938 and early  1939, delivering groups of refugees to New York every few weeks. Then,  with the invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Germany closed its  borders. By that time, hundreds of endangered Jews had escaped to  America, thanks to the Leitzes’ efforts. How did  Leitz II and his staff  get away with it? Leitz, Inc. was an internationally recognized brand that brought credit to the newly resurgent Reich. The company produced  range-finders and other optical systems for the German military. Also, the  Nazi government desperately needed hard currency from abroad, and  Leitz’s single biggest market for optical goods was the United  States. Even so, members of the Leitz family and firm suffered for their  good works. A top executive, Alfred Turk, was jailed for working to help  Jews and freed only after the payment of a large bribe. Leitz’s  daughter, Elsie Kuhn-Leitz, was imprisoned by the Gestapo after she was caught helping Jewish women cross into Switzerland.  She  eventually was freed but endured rough treatment in the course of  questioning. She also fell under suspicion when she attempted to improve the  living conditions of 700 to 800 Ukrainian slave laborers, all of them women,  who had been assigned to work in the plant during the 1940s. (After  the war, Kuhn-Leitz received numerous honors for her humanitarian efforts,  among them the Officier d’honneur des Palms Academic from France in 1965 and  the Aristide Briand Medal from the European Academy in the 1970s.)

Why has no one told this story until now? According to the late Norman Lipton, a  freelance writer and editor, the Leitz family wanted no publicity for its  heroic efforts. Only after the last member of the Leitz family was dead did  the “Leica Freedom Train” finally come to light. However, it is now the subject  of a book, “The Greatest Invention of the Leitz Family: The Leica Freedom  Train,” by Frank Dabba Smith, a California-born rabbi currently living in  England. Feel free to pass this info on to others: Memories of the righteous should live  on.