Kindred Mini-Series Review

Family history, as lovely as it is, can be complicated. This complication gets worse when it comes to America’s past and the sin of slavery.

The new Hulu miniseries, Kindred, is based on the book by Octavia E. Butler. Dana James (Mallori James) is a twenty-something writer who has recently moved from New York City to Los Angeles. After getting settled, she starts a friend-with-benefits relationship with Kevin Franklin (Micah Stock).

Somehow, she keeps getting pulled back to the past and 19th-century plantation. After saving Rufus Weylin (David Alexander Kaplan), Dana’s involvement in the lives of her slave ancestors and their masters becomes more entangled. When Kevin starts traveling back with her, the level of danger rises.

Dana is determined to figure out the connections between the past and the present, but at what cost to her and Kevin?

I remember reading the novel years ago and being blown away by it. It was one of those narratives that after all of the years, is powerful and relevant. Combining science fiction with history and our problematic past is an impossible to ignore literary melting pot.

Obviously, the series has been updated to our time. Though the first episodes kept me hooked, the story lagged toward the end. By the time the final credit rolled, I was underwhelmed. I wanted more, but something more was missing.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Kindred is available for streaming on Hulu.

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I am For the NYC Bill That Bans Landlords From Criminal Background Checks (Within Reason)

Apartment hunting by itself is a beast of an experience. In New York City, it is ten times harder due to the high rental prices and limited supply.

Earlier this month a bill was introduced to the City Council. If signed into law, it would prevent landlords from completing criminal background checks on potential renters. Last week, the topic was discussed on WNYC‘s The Brian Lehrer Show. The guest during this segment was Councilwoman Inna Vernikov (starts at 18:00).

I think that in theory is a good idea. Building owners/management companies have every right to make sure that a potential tenant will not be a danger either to the property itself or to their neighbors. However, it cannot be black and white. Applying a sliding scale I think is the best way to go about it. Each case should be reviewed individually and not be decided with broad brush strokes.

Finding a home when renting is hard enough. It should not be made more difficult by a criminal record. If removing this obstacle requires legislation, then so be it. I would rather the city or municipality step in to prevent a problem before it becomes one.

Throwback Thursday: Save the Last Dance 2 (2006)

College is a time of growth and change. With that growth and change comes a few challenges.

Save the Last Dance 2 (2006) is a direct-to-video sequel to Save the Last Dance (2001). Sara (Izabella Miko, taking over from Julia Stiles) has just arrived at Julliard in New York City, taking her one step closer to becoming a Prima ballerina. But the competition is stiff. For everyone that makes it in this world, there are many whose dreams never become reality.

When she meets Miles (Columbus Short), a composer who loves hip-hop, her world starts to open. But it soon becomes clear that Sara will have to choose between Miles and her vision of the future.

I have to give this film an A for effort. It tries to live up to its predecessor. But the magic that made Save the Last Dance special is missing from its sequel.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Thoughts On the Forced Hospitalization of the Homeless and Mentally Ill in NYC

Homelessness is one of those issues that seems both simple and difficult to explain and confront. Sometimes, it can be boiled down to a single problem. Other times, there are several threads that lead to one living on the streets.

Last week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a plan in which homeless persons who show signs of severe mental illness will be forced to go into the hospital.

On paper, this plan sounds reasonable. However, there are logistic questions that must be addressed.

  1. Do the hospitals have the beds and staff to handle this potentially large influx of patients?
  2. Will the doctors and nurses have access to the medical histories of the individuals so they can treat them properly?
  3. Who exactly will be on the teams that locate these people? Will it be clinicians and police? In case the encounter becomes dangerous, law enforcement may need to step in. Given their history, just charging in guns blazing is not the best option.
  4. Upon release from medical facilities, will these people have access to the services they need?

Obviously, the details have to be ironed out and it goes without saying that it will not all be smooth sailing in the beginning. But I have to admire Mayor Adams for trying. Something is always better than nothing.

I’m Ok With Cameras Being Installed in the NYC Subway System

Among the many concerns of those of us who ride the NYC subways, safety is at or near the top.

Last week, it was announced that every car in the system will have cameras installed in them by 2025. I’m ok with that.

I understand the arguments about big brother and the long list of fixes that need to be made to the system. However, when riders feel that they can get where they need to go without being assaulted, that can go a long way in bringing back people who are afraid of getting on the train.

About a year and a half ago, I was attacked by someone who clearly had issues. I won’t go into details, but I will say that it left an emotional scar that still exists to this day. I’m ok now, but the memory is burned into my brain. I later saw a story on the news that he went after an elderly couple not far from where he went after me. I don’t know or remember if the police ever caught him. But if the camera had been there, perhaps that couple would have gotten to their destination unmolested.

The only problem is that the cameras will not be live, which I think is a mistake.

There are things in our day-to-day experience that are necessary, as much as we dislike them. One of these things is these cameras, which may end up saving someone’s life or catch a potential criminal before they end up doing greater damage.

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DeSantis and Abbott Should be Charged With Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is both a crime against humanity and a crime in the United States. At the same time, it is not against the law to ask for asylum in this nation. Immigration has been the backbone of this country since its founding. And yet, there are some who want to restrict who can enter the US.

Over the last few weeks, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott have been using tax dollars to ship South American migrants to blue states. Not knowing where they were going, they were expecting that jobs were waiting for them when they reached their final destination. Instead, the locations they arrived in (New York City for the migrants sent from Texas and Martha’s Vineyard for the migrants sent from Florida), the local officials were not aware or prepared for the new arrivals. As of this past weekend, NYC is looking at the possibility of taking legal action against Abbott.

This goes back to what we all know. Serious reform of our immigration policy is necessary. The most recent change was a decade ago with DACA. While DACA was a huge step forward, it does not solve the overall issue. The problem is made worse by our current political climate, which has at best led to mostly partisan legislation and at worst, created a deadlock that cannot be overcome.

I think the answer to the question should be yes. They have broken the law and like anyone who has been accused of a crime, should have their day in court. But only time will tell if this comes to pass.

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P.S.: A woman who was among the over 10,000 migrants bused from Texas to New York killed herself on Monday. Abbott has blood on his hands.

Best Restaurants in New York City, Part II

We all need to eat, that is a fact. But that does not mean our choices have to be limited. In New York City, the possibilities of where to eat are endless.

Burger/Fast Food Restaurants

Schnipper’s

With two locations in Manhattan (Times Square and Midtown East), this restaurant does not disappoint. Though it is fast food, it does not leave you with the cheap, empty calories feeling. The menu is much more than burgers and fries, allowing almost anyone to find something to eat.

Roll n Roaster

Located in the South Brooklyn neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, Roll n Roaster has been around for fifty years. Famous for its roast beef sandwiches, the menu is fast food in the best sense of the word. There is an old-school feeling to the building that makes you feel like you have gone back in time. It’s a bit of a hike from the city, but the trip is definitely worth it.

Dessert

Lady M

Lady M is a semi-national chain with three different locations in Manhattan. The variety of crepe cakes is enough to make one’s mouth water and force a difficult decision to be made. Regardless of whether you purchase a slice as a special treat or a whole cake for a special occasion, it is worth every bite.

Ample Hills Creamery

Ice cream is one of those types of foods that can be as simple or as complicated as we want it to be. Ample Hills Creamery is one of the most respected ice cream stores in the city. It has 10 scoop shops in three different boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens) and sells their products to take home in a handful of retail stores. The variation in flavors is ridiculous in the best way possible.

Gluten-Free

Friedman’s Restaurant

Friedman’s Restaurant with its six locations across Manhattan is a diner, but the food and the experience are a notch above the average diner. There is a level of creativity to the dishes that make this restaurant stand out. What I personally love about Friedman’s Restaurant is that they offer gluten-free options. I’m not on a gluten-free diet, but a good friend of mine is. She was more than pleased with her meal. It’s a perfect place to go for brunch, a pre-theater meal, or just a good cup of coffee.

Tea Time

Alice’s Tea Cup

There is no better break from a busy day (at least in my mind) than a cup of tea and a delicious scone. Alice’s Tea Cup has two restaurants and one to-go location in upper Manhattan. With an Alice in Wonderland theme, the atmosphere is cozy and the food is yummy. Though they can be a bit busy at times, the experience is worth waiting for. Whether you go in for a full meal or just tea and a piece of cake, you will walk out satisfied

Kosher/Kosher Style Deli

2nd Ave Deli

The New York City restaurant scene used to be dotted with kosher/kosher-style delis. While many have gone the way of the dodo, a few remain. Among these is 2nd Ave Deli. There are two locations: Midtown East and Upper East Side. Whichever one you choose, I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. The sandwiches alone are a meal unto themselves. They also cater for large events and for Passover. Anyone who has prepared for a Passover Seder knows how much it helps to have some of the food made by a professional.

Ben’s Kosher Deli, Restaurant, and Caterers

This restaurant and its six locations (most of which are either in or close to NYC) is one of my family’s favorite places to eat. I have yet to walk out as an unhappy customer. Both the sandwiches and the potato pancakes are huge. Depending on when you go, there is a line out of the door and very few tables available. Trust me when I say that it is not uncommon to walk out with leftovers or takeout.

Traditional Ukrainian Food

Ukrainian East Village Restaurant

There is something about traditional food of every kind that makes you feel happy. When it’s made right, it feels like it is straight coming out of a mother or grandmother’s kitchen. I came here for dinner with friends a few months ago and was a happy camper. My favorite part of the meal was the pierogies. They offer several kinds and each is delicious. Given what is happening in the world, I felt like I was in a small way, contributing to helping the people who make this food be seen and heard for more than the headlines.

Veselka

Located in the Ukrainian heart of the East Village, Veselka’s two restaurants are a favorite of locals. For me, it is a reminder that this country and the city have been built and maintained by immigrants. It is those unique flavors and meals that have kept the seats filled for years. I cannot think of a time that I have gone to Veselka that I have not walked out feeling satisfied.

Readers, what do you think? Do you have a favorite among them?

Meant to Be Mine: A Novel Book Review

Prophecy is a funny thing. Though it may appear that our fate is set in stone, there is hopefully an opportunity to take control of our destiny.

Meant to Be Mine: A Novel, by Hannah Orenstein, was published last month. Edie Meyer is a twenty-something New Yorker whose grandmother has predicted the romantic future of her family for decades. Upon reaching a certain age, Grandma Gloria has informed each individual as to when they will meet their significant other.

Edie’s date is coming up fast. That morning, she is scheduled to be on a flight for her twin sister’s surprise engagement. It seems that Grandma was right when a handsome musician sits down next to her. Though it seems that he is her person, there are some questions that Edie cannot get out of her head. When a revelation shakes her to her core, she must choose between fate taking control or opening the door to someone completely unexpected.

I enjoyed this book. Edie is the type of protagonist we can all fall in love with. Though she does want love, it is not the defining characteristic of her narrative. I love her humanity, I loved her very unique family, and I wish that everyone would have a grandparent like Grandma Gloria. At the age of 90, she has more energy and chutzpah than others who are decades younger.

What clinched me was the pride in Edie’s Jewish identity. Though her family is far from Orthodox, they do not hide who they are or put up a false front in the name of fitting in.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Meant to be Mine: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

Flashback Friday: One Fine Day (1996)

Life is hectic. We all have jobs, maybe kids, etc. Some days it feels like we blink and the day is over before we know it.

The 1996 romantic comedy One Fine Day introduces the audience to Melanie Parker (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Jack Taylor (George Clooney). To say that Melanie and Jack have a lot on their respective plates is an understatement. In addition to their busy careers, they are both divorced with young children. Jack’s daughter, Maggie (Mae Whitman) has a penchant for wandering away from the adults who are responsible for looking after her. Melanie’s son Sammy (Alex D. Linz) likes to put things up his nose.

One busy day in New York City will bring Melanie and Jack together in ways that they never expected and force them to see someone they might have missed entirely.

As rom-coms go, this one is not bad. It’s got all of the narrative elements of the genre, but is not entirely predictable or boring. Clooney and Pfeiffer have reasonable chemistry. What makes the film for me is the daily chaos that comes with being a single parent and having to balance a job with raising your child.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Best Places to Eat in New York City

It has been said that New York City is foodie heaven. Whatever you are craving, there is always a restaurant to satiate the appetite. When you’re coming from out of town, the obvious places to eat are the national chains that everyone knows. There is nothing wrong with that, but when you are in the greatest city in the world, why not try something new?

L&B Spumoni Gardens

Located in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bensonhurst and Dumbo, this old-school Italian restaurant is a local favorite. Every dish is delicious and the portions are huge. I have rarely left this place without a doggie bag and a full stomach. If you’re not going to stay for a traditional entree, at least try the pizza. I guarantee you’ll love it.

Max Brenner

If you’re a chocoholic, you’re going to love this place. Walking into the Union Square restaurant is akin to walking into chocolate heaven. Whether you are there for a meal, dessert, or just a sweet treat, it is the perfect break from a busy day. There are also two other locations: a retail store in Times Square and a sister restaurant in Philadelphia.

Coney’s Cones

Summer is nothing without ice cream. Located on the Coney Island Boardwalk, Coney’s Cones sells the most delicious, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth gelato. Selling half a dozen flavors, the choices are as simple as a scoop in a cone or a cup or as complicated as a full-on dessert. This is one of my personal go-to places on the boardwalk.

Buddha Bodai

NYC is if nothing else, a city of immigrants. This often leads to a melding of dishes that otherwise, would not exist. Located in Chinatown, Buddha Bodai’s dishes are based on traditional Chinese food that is also kosher and vegetarian. I have never been in there when it is not packed or at least partially full. The food is mouthwatering, filling, and has a wide appeal.

Junior’s Cheesecake

Every culture and every city has certain fare that it is known for. One of the dishes that New York City is known for is cheesecake. There is one restaurant that makes the best cheesecake in the city, Junior’s Cheesecake. It has both retail and restaurant locations. All but one is in the city. It is perfect for a meal, a post-theater snack, or just because.

Readers, what do you think? Do you have any other recommendations to add to this list?

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