Look, Dear. Anne is feeling a little down these days. She has a cold, a really nasty cold. Oh no, Dear. Those third-grade runny-nosed guttersnipes have gotten to her again. Dear, me. If I was as sick as her on Monday, I would have just packed it in and called in sick for the day, but not her. The same for today. Yes, Dear. It pained me to see her suffer so, but she seems to be feeling a little better now. I hope that she recovers soon. Um-um-um yes, Dear.
My friend, Bob, and I share a hobby, playing board games together, in particular Avalon Hill brand games. Most of these wargames are forty years old or older and we have been playing them for over thirty of those years. One game in particular is our favorite, Victory in the Pacific (VITP). It is based on the game system first pioneered in its sister Avalon Hill game, War at Sea. Both games rely heavily on the use of dice. This reliance has led to their pejorative nicknames, Dice in the Pacific and Dice at Sea. These games, relative to most other games of this genre, are fast paced and simple to master. When we play VITP, I always play the Japanese and Bob plays the Allies. The game’s simplicity and reliance on luck aside, VITP is uncannily accurate in modeling the historical outcome of WW II in the Pacific. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. As it turns out, VITP was by no means the first of its kind.
In the Slammer’s (Saint Louis Art Museum) current show, “Conflicts of Interest: Art and War in Modern Japan”, in addition propaganda posters like the triptych above that disseminated the news of naval battles from the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), period Japanese wargames were also on display. These board games were all of a kind called sugoroku, which is similar in play to the popular American children’s game chutes-and-ladders. The earliest such game on display was created by the head admiral of the Imperial Navy and was used by him to instruct his then young emperor in the art-of-war, “So Sensei, teach me once more this art-of-war, but remember that this time your Emperor would be most displeased to lose, again.”
When Dan and I left Saint Louis for Brooklyn, we were not alone in the cab of the rent-a-truck. Elliot the cat also accompanied us on our eastward journey. Hence, our travel moniker was a riff off of a local moving service, Two Men and a Truck. We went with Two Men and a Cat. We were on the road for about twenty-four hours, but I’ll spare you from another “24” themed post. In preparation for this road trip, Elliot was placed on a diet, because there just wasn’t room in the cab for a litter box. Things worked out as planned though and there were no accidents on the road. Elliot, who is a fat cat and now a NYC fat cat, wasn’t very happy with this approach and voiced many complaints about his ill-treatment all the way to New York City.
In full disclosure, I should say that I am allergic to cats and was not particularly excited about the prospect of spending any extended time in close proximity to one. I ended up taking Claritin though and was able to manage my allergies with drugs. I have noticed over the years that even when I hang back in a crowd of humans, cats will soon gravitate to me. It is like they are drawn to me. They’ll ignore all of the much more cat friendly, intervening people and single me out for their special attention. When I try to act aloof or ignore them, this only serves to cause them to redouble their efforts. It’s almost as if they are telling themselves and are trying to convince me too that they are not like ordinary cats, they’re special and I should love them.
Elliot is a very friendly cat and never really gave up trying to convince me of this, but after about a week being back home again, all of the cat dander finally left my system and I felt normal again. Dan’s apartment is a storefront. Its front wall is all glass. At night or when he is away a metal grate can be lowered for security purposes. When the grate is up, Elliot, who is an indoor cat likes looking out on the street life. He takes a keen interest in the sparrows on the sidewalk, but is rightly afraid of the NYC pigeons.
24:00 No Jack Bauer, no ticking clock, but plenty of action to be had. This post is about what has occurred in the last twenty-four hours. No worries, it’s all good. Friday featured dinner and a show. The show was in the Slammer (Saint Louis Art Museum), “Conflicts of Interest: Art and War in Modern Japan”.
23:29 This exhibit showcases a collection of extraordinary visual material that documents Japan’s modern rise to power, starting in the mid-19th century and culminating with Pearl Harbor. Emphasis is on depicting events of the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Featured are propaganda posters that invariably highlight the prowess of the Japanese armed forces. These posters were ‘the news’ for a mostly illiterate, unplugged populace. The images depicted are bold, striking and frequently violent. They were created using sophisticated wood-block printing techniques. As art they foreshadow modern anime. In 2010 local collectors Charles and Rosalyn Lowenhaupt contributed 1,400+ works. I was fortunate to catch a mini-show then. This new show has been worth the wait. It runs through January 8th.
21:11 Exiting the museum, I photographed this tree-lined path atop Art Hill. The tops of these trees have already turned red, but as you can see, underneath everything is still green. We dined at Little Saigon in the Central West End. This Vietnamese, Asian fusion style restaurant has been one of our favorites since almost when we still needed a babysitter. Although we last ate out at Lemon Grass, which features traditional Vietnamese, we asked why not? It was good.
06:53 Today, we went bicycling. Our neighbor, Mary had invited us out for the day. We rode to Tower Grove Park and toured the farmers market there. Independently, all three of us bought Hawaiian ginger, but mainly we just shopped. On Morganford we lite lunched at the London Tea Room. The staff there all wear “Tea Shirts”, but instead of any of their marvelous teas, we all chose hot cider. Anne and I each enjoyed a chai cider. On the way home, we were still feeling a bit peckish, so Mary introduced us to la pâtisserie Chouquette and we all enjoyed a little something. Anne and I have ridden by this place dozens of times without ever stopping. This is a mistake that in the future shall be further remedied. We all enjoyed the available confections, but the real claim to fame at la pâtisserie Chouquette is its ganache. Ganache is a glaze, icing, sauce, or filling for pastries made from chocolate and cream. Typically, two parts chocolate to one part cream are used. Pictured are two examples of their edible special order masterpieces. It was a grand day. 0:00
Anyone familiar with American TV has to have been exposed to numerous episodes of crime based drama on the gritty streets of New York City. You watch enough of these paranoid cop shows and it is easy to believe that crime is running rampant down the streets of NYC. This month, in my week-long stay in the city, I witnessed no crime. Unless, you count the above pictured beggar thief, who took a moment to mug for my camera, before returning to the plying of his wiles on the unsuspecting tourists of Central Park. I knew that Manhattan would be safe, based on Anne’s and mine 2009 visit to the island. On that vacation we also visited all of the other boughs, but then we always traveled in a group. There was over 35,000 of us cycling the Five Boughs Ride that day. I did feel some initial trepidation about Brooklyn on this month’s visit, but it was soon overcome and I hope that Dan will do well there.
This week in my couch surfing of the web, I discovered the following SNL skit entitled “Bushwick, Brooklyn, 2015”. This is the neighborhood where Dan lives now. In this skit three African-American men, all played by recognizable actors, are standing on a street corner shooting the breeze. [Spoiler Alert] The skit’s gag is that these three tough guys each have a softer side that repeatedly highlights the gentrification process that is ongoing in Bushwick. This is the same process that has already swallowed next door Williamsburg and is now spilling over into the surrounding and still more affordable neighborhoods. The skit’s ending is a shock, but I think that it helps drive the joke home.
Gentrification is a two-edged sword. The new mostly young and white residents do introduce nice things to a neighborhood, like artisanal mayonnaise, but these more affluent residents also tend to drive out the existing lower-income community with increased property values. Part of the reason Dan left LA was because he was on the receiving end on the next even more affluent wave of gentrification there. I like to look on the bright side though. Eventually, Dan will be priced out of Brooklyn too and then maybe he’ll come back to Saint Louis and we’ll be here waiting for him.