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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 2/11/21

Good morning!


I had noted with support the notion that we should give to the homeless. This has been an ongoing debate, which Bradley Gibbons analyzed for me the other day.

· On the one hand, these people obviously are not living well and how could it hurt? (Bradley describes the same homeless guy he pays every time he goes to pick up a bagel)

· Police departments discourage paying them, as it encourages the behavior and congregation on city streets

· Many are mentally ill and/or addicted to drugs and they will either use the money for drugs or (worse) have the money stolen from them

· Some of those around the freeway entrances and exits have been seen to have been dropped off in the morning, like they’re going to work

· The money is better given to agencies that actually provide services for these people.

It is possible that these differing motivations can be reconciled. To the extent we can afford it, we can give BOTH to charitable agencies and the occasional homeless person. They aren’t mutually exclusive. And while I don’t believe we should be paying each and every homeless person with whom we are in contact, there is the occasional person whose eyes may speak to us and what great harm (sorry LAPD) would it cost to simply pass a few dollars to someone in need? Plus, doing so makes the giver feel good too…


In response to my discussion of the Lower East Tenement Museum, Irene Kanowitz suggests the book 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement. The book is an “investigation of the lives and culinary habits—shopping, cooking, and eating—of five families of various ethnicities living at the turn of the twentieth century in one tenement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.” Plus, lots of recipes.

The tenements were the result of a building boom to account for the rapid expansion of New York City. The population doubled every decade between 1800 and 1880. By 1900 there were over 80,000 tenement buildings in the city, housing over 2.3 million people, representing 2/3 of the city’s population. Until reformers demanded better building codes, these buildings were constructed seven stories high on 25 foot lots, lot line to lot line. Extended families lived in crowded apartments with no little light, often without fire escapes, exposed to rapidly transmitted diseases, and with a 1-in-10 infant mortality rate. Many of the apartments also included the family clothing “factory” or other business. It was quite an environment in which many of our grandparents lived, particularly those escaping pogroms and the Irish potato famine.

LAST WEEK’S TRIVIA FOLLOW-UP Longest inauguration speech precipitates early demise? Peter Bain was the first to note that William Henry Harrison (affectionately known as “Tippecanoe” for his victory in said battle), ninth president of the United States, served the shortest term—only one month! He died in April 1841 (remember that in this era, presidents didn’t take office until March), as the result of contracting pneumonia at his inauguration. He chose not to wear an overcoat, hat or gloves. He gave the longest inauguration speech, weighing in at 8,445 words and clocking in at over two hours. His campaign slogan turned out to be prescient, as he was succeeded by the unimpressive slaveowner, John Tyler. By virtue of Tyler’s ascendancy, the American people definitely got “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” Harrison was the son of a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the grandfather of future president Benjamin Harrison. As to James Garfield. Parke Skelton notes that Republican donors commissioned famous Southern California architects Greene and Greene to build a home for his widow, Lucretia, which still stands at 1001 Buena Vista, South Pasadena. Let’s arrange a field trip! BOOKS WITH IMMIGRANT STORIES Sandy Pressman has two books to recommend: Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu and Sigh Gone by Phuc Tranh to be added to your booklist. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BAGEL We all have our favorite foods—pizza, burger, fries, tacos. One food that gets some of us going is the simple bagel. David Woznica recalled this week his family’s shift in bagel loyalty 20 years ago from Columbia Bagels (Broadway near 110th) to to Absolute Bagel (Broadway at 107th), at the time a relative newcomer. During the pandemic, Lauren and I have been battling over bagels ordered from New York. While Lauren is partial to Black Seed, I’m still a Russ & Daughters fan. David reflects that his favorite bagels in NYC were crafted by the Asian chef at his family business. He thinks “love” is a key factor in cooking and Absolute Bagels success proves that love can come from the hands of those of any background. VIET TRANH NGUYEN’S FOLLOW-UP TO THE SYMPATHIZER Julie Robinson points out that the follow-up to The Sympathizer comes out next month. It is called The Committed, following-up on the Sympathizer as he moves to Paris as a refugee. I can’t wait… FINALLY, A SUNDANCE MOVIE RECOMMENDATION From Ed Nahmias, the Best Drama Audience Award winner from the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Based on true events, a preacher, played by Forest Whitaker, reforms a Klansman. It is a story of redemption in rural North Carolina. Ed loved it; I haven’t seen it. Here’s an article about the true story: Have a great day! Glenn

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