List: NBA Superstar, or Member of The Israeli Knesset?

In high school there was a kid whose special talent was saying NBA players’ names backwards. We always thought they sounded like Israeli politicians. Can you tell which is which?

  1. Nadroj Leahcim
  2. Issawi Frej
  3. Semaj Norbel
  4. Avihai Boaron
  5. Enolam L’rak
  6. Aryeh Deri
  7. Sicnarf Evets
  8. Zehava Gal-On
  9. Yair Lapid
  10. God Shamgod
  11. Rolyab Nigle
  12. Yehudit Shilat
  13. Nakim Egroeg
  14. Yoav Galant
  15. Dlesnu Sew
  16. Shuli Mualem
  17. Rellim Eigger
  18. Nosrevi Nella
  19. Yinon Magal
  20. Ynohtna Olemrac
  21. Meshulam Nahari
  22. Erciep Laup
  23. Notyap Yrag
  24. Yrubram Nohpets
  25. Ayelet Shaked

1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23, 24 NBA Superstars

2, 3, 6, 8,9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 21, 25 Israeli Knesset Members

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President Khaled

DJ-Khaled

Dj Khaled is having a moment.  The New Orleans born Miami based DJ has been an aspirational, outspoken, and vivacious bundle of hip hop spunk for years, but his recent wonders and forays into social media have left the public truly spellbound.  Whether telling us, the public, about the soothing qualities of maintaining a garden, the secrets of scent (it’s cocoa butter), how we must stay clean, or just generally empowering us to see our own inner wisdom and not play ourselves, Khaled has us as a society mesmerized.  Even the NY Times has taken notice.  

He is the sort of gregarious character our society loves and rally’s around.  To this end, there are even those out there on the internets who have begun to loudly wonder: should DJ Khaled be president?

As ridiculous as it sounds, he would certainly be entertaining as a candidate, and a debate between himself and Vanilla ISIS (Donald Trump) would no doubt rival the super bowl in ratings, or at least a syndicated episode of Law and Order SVU.

 

For the sake of my own interest, and that of the American public at large, let us examine DJ Khaled’s views on the most divisive and important topics of this election cycle and imagine what an America run by President Khaled would look like.   

 

Immigration:

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Born Khaled Mohamed Khaled to Palestinian immigrant parents in New Orleans, Louisiana, immigration, particularly that of Muslims to America, no doubt is an issue rests close to home for Khaled.  Needless to say, if Muslims were banned from entering our great nation, then DJ Khaled would not exist in his current form as true embodiment of the American dream.  Khaled is a living testament to the ability to embrace all America stands for (hip hop, gaudy jewelry, Ciroc vodka) while being proud of one’s roots.  America and our collective identity is a complicated matter of nuance and multiplicity, and often ontologically opposed ideals possessed in our communal vision, lifestyles, and history.  Khaled recognizes this with gusto, and would hold true to the words inscribed on the statue of liberty welcoming those fleeing tyranny and oppression throughout the world, coming to our shores with the dream of being, like Khaled, the best.  

Healthcare:

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Khaled, despite his husky exterior, is in fact a man dedicated to health and fitness.  He is heavily invested in the public maintaining proper hygiene, and regularly works out in an effort to lose weight and eat pears with his protege and ecrivan of America’s future national anthem Rick Ross (Khaled’s presidency will usher in a decree by which “Hustlin” will ring out before all sporting events and patriotic endeavors).  More importantly, Khaled is a man of the people.  To quote from his classic “I’m From The Ghetto”:

We the best

I represent the hood

I represent the ghetto

I represent the people

I represent you

LISTEN!!!

A true people’s champion, and surely someone who would believes in the benefits and accessibility the affordable healthcare act and medicaid give to our impoverished communities.  On our currency there is a simple term, “E Plurbis, Unum” – “Out of many, one”.  Khaled is not in the streets declaring himself the best.  No no comrade, it is WE, that are the best.

 

Economics:

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See above for Khaled’s populist tendencies, and couple that with the fact that this is a man who has amassed a net worth of 18 million dollars.  What you get is a living, breathing, embodiment of a champagne socialist (minus the negative connotations).  Khaled knows how to make a dollar out of a dime, and knows that he needs to bring the hood along with him on his journey to more success.  He is a disrupter, screaming on the stage of Wall Street, demanding more for us, the people.

 

Foreign Policy:

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It would be rational to think to yourself “DJ Khaled certainly has no experience with our nation’s foreign policy movers and shakers”.  You would be fundamentally wrong, however, as our very own state department has been promoting Khaled as a beacon of American culture for years.  

Further, with Russia’s resurgence into global geo-politics and the end of America’s era as the dominant force in a monopolar world, a man skilled in negotiation and diplomacy will be needed.  Khaled, who we have already seen as a uniter of people’s domestically, is also skilled in the art of brokering peace.  Who amongst us can forget when he brokered peace between two of Jamaica’s most prolific and yet at times violent and surly dancehall artists Bounty Killer and Movado?  If he can bring an amicable and artistic solution between these two warring camps then one can only be excited for his negotiations with Sergei Lavrov as America looks to continue to assert itself as an agent for good in a world troubled by tyranny and war.  

 

The Middle East:

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The rise of ISIS, the ongoing civil war in Syria, the troubled legacy of our war in Iraq, the continued troubles of Israel and Palestine: is there any region more contentious and debated in American politics than the Middle East?  Again, as a Palestinian and a Muslim, these are issues close to the corazon of Khaled.  And yet, as a man with more at stake in these causes than many other Americans, he is also a man who maintains a cool head, and knows the answer to the region’s problems is not more war, but love, peace, and dialogue.  Talking to Power 105.1 he made this clear.  

“I feel like in America, we get along, you know what I’m saying, Arabs, Jews, Italians, if you’re white, or spanish or black, we all get along in america, I know that took some time back in the day, but they overcomed it, and I feel like if we overcomed it in America, why can’t we overcome it in the Middle East? You know what I’m saying?….I think our leaders need to boss up even more to say ‘you know what, we gotta overcome this you know what I’m saying?”  

SAGE WORDS.  

 

Race:

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While many of our current candidates pay lip service to the idea of diversity and a racially harmonious America, Khaled lives it.  Just a quick look at videos such as Khaled’s immortal “We Taking Over” and “Holla at me baby” shows a veritable rainbow coalition of musicians creating masterful and empowering harmonies to inspire America’s youth.  A Senegalese immigrant R&B super star, a lower class white rapper from houston, a Puerto Rican from Trinity ave in the Bronx, a black prodigy from the Magnolia housing projects of New Orleans, all brought together by a Muslim Arab in a fantastically polished gold chain.  When the aliens come back to fight Tom Cruise’s eschatonical war and our planet is destroyed, these are the images of pan-racial mirth I hope our society is remembered by.   

 

Women’s Rights:

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Women have been systematically oppressed throughout history.  Their rights are now in danger more than ever with plans to close planned parenthood coupled with armed attacks against the institution, as well as the anti-abortion movement in full swing attempting to regulate women’s bodies in a way that is both grotesque and hypocritical.  All this coincides with the continued injustice of the “glass ceiling” and lack of equal pay for women and the dramatic lack of representation of women in politics.  

Khaled has complicated views on woman.  He is part of a institution of hip hop that to put it lightly has degraded women for years.  HOWEVER! Despite this, and despite his personal qualms with cunulangous, he says “..the man should praise the queen”.  Further, through his collaborations and work with feminist icons Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma, we can see that Khaled is a man who admires the ambitions, hustle, and artistic/entrepreneurial work of woman, and will stand to make sure they are treated equally and respectfully in our great American society.  

 

INSPIRATION:

DJ Khaled

America needs inspirational figures.  We are not a nation that wants technocrats and scholars as our leaders.  We have proven, for better or worse, that we want someone we can have a beer with.  Whether that means knocking back some O’Douls and singing honky tonk with GW or a Yuengling and discussing the root of violence in Chicago with Obama, it’s something we seem to be into.  DJ Khaled is not only someone to have a beer with, he is a man to drink an entire bottle of Ciroc with and then tear the fucking club up with as Crime Mob resonates throughout the beer hall.  He is a uniter, he is a man who will give America the courage to be THE BEST, to make sure that the next century is ANOTHER ONE of American greatness, who can help us find the key’s to success we are looking for.  Who can help us win more.  

 

It is time to recognize Khaled as a viable candidate for America.  It’s time to listen.  

Pizza Quest

Lamenting about the cost of living in Lower Manhattan has become as futile as asking “Why isn’t fried chicken good for me?”  It is a simple, tragic, reality.  I am not here to lament.   Instead I’m here to voice my profound appreciation for one of the few, affordable, rays of light in the sprawl below 14th street: the dollar slice.  

During my vagabond months of last year, much of which spent in an apartment on Avenue D (a street that appears to have never received the memo about gentrification in Alphabet City) the dollar slice was a gastronomique oasis, an economic and culinary vestigial remnant of cheaper days gone by that keeps us afloat.  

 

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not my bicycle, but a kindred soul nonetheless 

 

 

Those of you who have read my writings are familiar with the Manga Scale.  It was with this ideal that I set off for the perfect dollar slice, a journey that would take me throughout south east manhattan, in search of the most exquisite marinara covered manna. Oh streets of New York, what perfection could you hold?  Acompanarme.  

All of these places are essentially called the same thing so I’ve listed their cross streets for the sake of simplicity.  I’ve not included the financial district because if you are hanging out in the financial district you probably can afford a decent meal.  The west village and washington square are not included because I don’t enjoy hearing about NYU freshman seminar essay topics while I consider what my life has become, which is what I think about when I’m eating dollar pizza.  Two Bros is not included because everyone knows them and I find their slices too sweet/capitalistic.  

 

Rivington and Essex:  

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A locale of decent quality and taste.  Located extremely close to my favorite watering hole (Welcome to the Johnson’s) this dollar slice purveyor is a treat whether preparing my stomach to drink fifteen budweisers and play pool against a group of aggressive yet untalented aging punk dudes, or stumbling out of the bar at close.  Adding to its allure is that the owner is supposedly a champion pizza twirler, and Turkish.  This is truly the American dream.  However, while one may be a great twirler of Bosphorian origins, I care significantly more about the taste of the actual pizza versus how high you can throw it into the air.  There are also a bunch of pictures of the owner side by side with celebrities of various caliber, ranging from the extremely creepy Akon to a visibly inebriated Keanu Reeves.  

The pizza itself is very decent: salty, a thick bed of dough, good consistency to the cheese.  This dollar slice loses points for two major reasons: The first is the lack of parmesan cheese.  True dollar slice connoisseurs know that the slice itself is more of a vehicle for the free toppings that will substantially add to the taste and value of the product.  What is at first simply bread, tomato sauce, and cheese, is transformed into a limited yet delicious spectrum of herbs, spices, and powdered salts.  Parmesan is a key amongst these.  Essex and Rivington’s lack of parmesan cheese serves to make them come off as cheap, and unsympathetic to the palates of the worker.  Bread and Roses, my friends.  The second cause for concern is the raise in price after 10pm to two dollars a slice.  The reasoning make sense. Drunk assholes will pay more for a slice of pizza at a later hour while leaving a public house of amusement and libations.  But once again, this airs more of exploitativeness than enterprise.

Despite all of these anti-lumpen proletarian measures, the dollar slice on Essex and Rivington is a very good place to eat cheap pizza and potentially see a fight start. The LES’s rocker past has very much transformed into bridge and tunnel dudes on the weekend who didn’t get enough hugs as a child.  Somehow, pizza and fluorescent lights only exacerbates their chauvinistic impulses.

 

Allen and Hester:

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Delve deep into the world of Chinatown/LES my comrades!  If you are in these parts the logic would be to patronize a superior proprietor of cheap eats such as Prosperity Dumpling (RIP).  However, to fully complete a Marco Polo-esque afternoon adventure of taste and cost, occasionally a good slice of pizza is what the tongue longs for (the mixture of Italian and Chinese cuisines is often overlooked.  It’s not that they mix well, it’s just that they are both cost effective).  

Given the re-appearance of drunk Keanu Reeves (this time in black and white!) at this location, I’m assuming Allen and Hester is owned by the same pizza tosser as Essex and Rivington.  This dollar slice scores major points for the fact that it has seating.  Just because we are poor and enjoy a thrifty meal does not mean we don’t deserve to rest our weary legs which tire from long days of sitting around writing emails in the offices where we are essentially glorified secretaries.  Ah, to be young and employed in New York!  What wonders our degrees in Caribbean literature have brought us!  In truth, the clientele of this location does thoroughly make one question what direction their life is heading in.  I’m not sure which opiate the patrons of Allen and Hester dollar slice prefer, but it is certainly one which has made them both aggressive and strangely joviale.  If you are okay with lots of neck tattoos, thoroughly worn down walking shoes, nonsensical mumbling, and the occasional drool, this is your kinda place.  In all seriousness, they are a nice bunch.  Share the hot flakes with them and you’ll be fast friends.  

The pizza here is made fresh often, and thus one endures the harrowing journey of wanting to eat the pizza right away while risking scalding your mouth instantly.  I imagine this is what Sade was talking about in “The Sweetest Taboo”.  “You’ve got the hottest slice, sometimes I think you’re just too glutennnyyyy…..”  The problem lies in that I prefer my dollar slices reheated.  This allows the cheese to congeal and become more substantive, with its hidden notes emerging.  The pizza here is a little too thin for my liking, requiring the purchase of more slices to feel sustenance.

However, once again, these are dollar slices, and you have to really fuck it up to make it not tasty/worth it.  So this is a perfectly good place to have a cheap lunch/breakfast while wandering around Allen street searching for your drug dealers car, or to hear about the latest methadone clinic gossip.  

 

Ave A and 2nd St:   

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Avenue A holds many delicious locales to dine.  Black Market’s cheeseburger is a revelation and GG’s has the most reasonably priced restaurant Tecate’s around.  These places are all well and good, but after blowing all my money at the bar it’s the corner of 2nd St and A that I find myself ordering slices in the hopes that it will miraculously pre-treat what will inevitably be a debilitating hangover.  

This location lacks seating, and it is incredibly small.  If more than two people are enjoying their slices inside it makes for some unwanted bumping and grinding.  What the store lacks in space it certainly makes up for in service.  Slices are served speedily and at a decent temperature, ready to eat instantly.  Further, the staff always calls me “Boss”.  This makes me feel weird given both them and I are partners in the great proletarian workers struggle, but I appreciate the sentiment.

Importantly, they have the full gamut of free toppings. Oregano, Pepper, Garlic Salt, Parmesan Cheese, Hot Flakes, AND Hot Sauce.  My my, what decadence.  The slices themselves are not extraordinary but are thick enough and leave you feeling un-famished after two slices, and for just 75 cents more you get you a can of soda.  The store is also a nice place to stop by and get out of the cold during the day.  They serve coffee as well but it looks horrible.  

 

Orchard and Delancey (AKA Pizza):

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I make note of the name of this location because I find it fascinating.  Is it called “99 Cent Pizza AKA Fresh Pizza”?  Is it just called “AKA Pizza”?  What else are people calling it?  Deep philosophical questions are contemplated at this restaurant.  “Is this Pizza?  Who am, I?”  I personally found myself being drawn towards nihilism by the end of my portion here, for what point is life, if I have found such a delicious slice?  Why go on?  Alec Baldwin was probably eating here when he decided to quit public life.  

There are a lot of great things going on at AKA Pizza:  A hand painted Fresco graffiti mural about the lower east side’s love for pizza, a clear homage to Diego Rivera’s work for the Ford Motor Company.  A deal on 14” pizza’s for five dollars on Mondays and Tuesdays.  Parmesan cheese, SEATING!  The only thing holding AKA Pizza from Manga Scale perfection is that their staff is sub par.  The young man behind the counter seemed less than interested in my request that my slice be made warm and not too hot, for he was on his phone throughout my order.  I understand that working at this pizza place may not be all that stimulating or rewarding, and a zen like stewardship of the oven is not required, however I would like to be at least acknowledged.  As we have discussed, New York is already treating me quite poorly with cost of living.  The dollar slice restaurant is supposed to be a place of refuge and solidarity, where I am not judged for my economic standing and love of low priced pies.

Despite the rough start this was a great slice.  Re-heated, bountiful, with ample amounts of cheese and dare I say the perfect amount of sauce.  The oregano here was also especially flavorful.  I was thoroughly delighted, and by the end of my second slice had forgiven the employee in my mind.  Pizza heals all wounds.  

(Note: Many moons after writing this piece, my bike was stolen from outside this dollar slice.  The house always wins in New York, for no great thing comes without a steep moral/economic/transportative cost.)

 

Avenue C and 9th:  

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Avenue C is a strange place.  It represents a sort of DMZ between the thoroughly gentrified Avenues A and B, which at this point are essentially part of the East Village, and the still somewhat “complex” Avenue D.  There are places such as Ninth Street Espresso and whatever that store is that sells 8 dollar grilled cheeses, and then there are places like AC Kitchen and the dollar slice that serve a less affluent clientele.  

The location of this restaurant is quite large, yet does not have seating.  There is ample space however to post up at a windowed counter and enjoy your cheese bread while seeing the eclectic mix of residents circulating outside, a neighborhood in flux.  The pizza is good and they have the full array of free toppings.  It’s nothing to get overly excited about, but a solid slice.  It’s like seeing Rocky IV on TV: you don’t cancel plans to watch it, but it’ll fill the time before your tinder match messages you back.  The staff here are incredibly nice as well.  Two years ago I was broke and living around these parts.  I ate two one-dollar slices twice a day and walked everywhere because I didn’t have money for subway rides (sorry I can’t meet you in Brooklyn!).  I lost five pounds and looked great.  This proves both that carbs aren’t caligula incarnate and pizza is delicious and takes a while to get sick of.  I’d say I’ve moved on but the inspiration for writing this piece is that I’m pretty much in the same position as back then.  I imagine that there is a sect of monks in Tuscany who practice a similar form of asceticism.  Hot flakes are a great inducer of self discovery, as is not being able to afford going out to eat with anyone.   

 

Everyone likes pizza.  It unites us in a way only rivaled by hate for Rudy Giuliani and/or whoever schedules MTA maintenance  By no means is the goal of this piece to disparage fantastic restaurants such as Two Boots, Motarino, and their ilk who are the producers of delectable slices with a cacophony of interesting toppings.  It is simply that the dollar slice is an institution, an idea.  A concept so simple, yet containing substantial depth and variance, often not even involving the pizza at all.  An ephemeral “experience” of austerity and joy.  

The Syrian American Power Rankings

 

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Guess what!  States are are barring Syrian refugees from coming to them despite the fact that legitimate presidential candidates don’t even know what the United States looks like.  This is because after the #ParisAttacks racists have seen an opportune moment to faux-legitimize their racism and drum up some anti-muslim rhetoric despite the fact that none of the Paris attackers were Syrian.  What happened in Paris is horrific, as were recent events in Beirut and Ankara.  However, barring Syrian refugees isn’t what will bring an end to ISIS and terrorism, in fact, it plays directly into what ISIS wants: a narrative in which their “caliphate” is the only home for Muslims.  If you want solutions to defeating ISIS style terrorism, there aren’t any immediate ones, and long term ones will take a dramatic policy shift by Western leaders.  Politicians calling for a ban on Syrian refugees fail to acknowledge that we actually have a tremendously and exhaustively effective vetting system for refugees, to the point that plenty of people who legitimately need to be resettled and could be valuable members of our multicultural nation can’t even get here.  

But here we are, with elected officials legitimately praising the Japanese internment camps and saying we should do this again.  The level of cognitive dissonance going on today is astounding, or maybe this is just a massive conspiracy to tear down the Statue of Liberty, that terrorist loving harlet.  Jemelle Bouie over at Slate says it best: as Americans we are a nation of immigrants that hates immigrants.  There will always be the other, and the other will always be feared and made to seem like the enemy.  

This is all complicated.  I could delve into how it is Europe’s bigotry and colonial legacy that makes its own cities the hotbed of radical terror, but I just want a simpler, more innuendo filled way to explain to the public that those from the Levant, particularly Syria, are, have been, and will be a pivotal and notable part of American society.  

I give you: The Syrian American Power Rankings: 

  1.  Steve Jobs:

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When I told friends about this half-assed list, they immediately said “Oh! Oh! Steve Jobs has got to be number 1!”.  False.  Steve Jobs is most surely a proud and noteable Syrian American, but I don’t really see what all the hubub is about him.  People treat him like a demi-god for making a computer and cell phone.  iMac’s used to be neon colored pieces of shit.  The iPhone is a scam that makes you pay six hundred dollars every two years then slowly withers away in your palm more and more after every “operating system update”.  I have a macbook and an iphone, and I use them simply because they are better than a PC.  That isn’t love, that’s settling.  Thank you Steve Jobs for helping me realize my romantic future in the form of electronic possession-hood.  But people like Steve, so he gets #10.   I hope you are happy America.  Please acknowledge that he is Syrian.  

 

  1. Kelly Slater:

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I know very very little about Kelly Slater besides that he surfs and used to date Gisele.  But surfing is iconically American.  Hell, there’s a whole song called “Surfin USA” about cruising for chicks and hanging out on the beach.  Those are up there in the pantheon of “Most American Things” along with war Mongering and our own hate of immigrants.  Let that settle in your mind palace.  

 

  1. Tommy Bolin:

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Tommy Bolin is an American of Syrian ancestry who played guitar in Deep Purple.  If you can’t recognize the contribution to Americana that is “Smoke On The Water” then you are basically an ISIS sleeper cell.  Fuck off.  Love you Tommy.  

 

  1. Abe Doumar: Inventor of the ice cream cone

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Abe Doumar came to America from Damascus, and found himself at the St. Louis World’s Fair.  One day at the fair he saw us savage Americans putting ice cream on pieces of paper.  Even worse, the ice cream stand closed down when they ran out of said paper plates.  Abe was a clever man, and went over to a nearby waffle stand, rolled the waffle into a cone, and told the asshat ice cream vendor to put the ice cream in the cone.  He even brought peace between the two vendors, who sold the cone/cream combo for the rest of the fair.  Well done Abe.  So remember: if you hate Syrians, you hate ice cream.  If you hate ice cream, you hate America.  

 

  1. Teri Hatcher:
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Just a couple great Syrian Americans about to make out

Timeless babe, and a woman who I imagine many a secretly-racist-unhappily-married-middle-american-man during the mid 2000’s fantasized about.  She also played Lois Lane.  So if you hate Syrians, then you hate the woman that SuperMan loved.  If you hate the woman SuperMan loved… you see where I’m going with this.  

 

5: Terrence Malick:

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If you speak Arabic then you’ll notice that the legendary director’s last name sounds a lot like the Arabic word for “King”.  It’s not a coincidence.  Someone way back in his family was Syrian.  Besides their deep commitment to cinematography, there’s almost no similarities between Mr. Malick and ISIS.  Without Syrian immigrants we wouldn’t have “The Tree of Life” or “A Thin Red Line”.

 

  1. Paula Abdul:

True Legend.  Full stop.  So renowned as a pop singer that her record label created a fictitious cigarette smoking cartoon cat to rap and sing along with her.  The fact that the cat was never heard from again only adds to the strength of her career and legend.  Paula, a Syrian Jew whose dad was born in Aleppo and moved to Brazil, is a true sign of why allowing Syrians in America isn’t just a good idea, but a necessity.

(as an aside, let’s think about the fact that there was a hit pop song in America about beastiality).

 

  1. Jerry Seinfeld:

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Another Syrian Jew!  I don’t really need to talk about Jerry Seinfeld.  I’m just pointing out that he’s got some Syrian in him and if you re-watch seinfeld it becomes wildly apparent how horrible his stand up routine is.  Those are two unrelated but true facts.  I love seinfeld though.   “What’s the deal with refugees!”.  

 

  1. Shannon Elizabeth:

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Born to a Syrian father, Shannon Elizabeth is responsible for an entire generation of American boys libidos via her role as “Nadia” in American Pie. Only god knows how many first erections and sessions of self love she was responsible for.  A true icon. A great Syrian American.  

 

  1. Tiffany:

Tiffany Darwish was one of the most iconic pop stars of the 80’s.  Her song “I Think We’re Alone Now”, is literally about waiting for your parents to leave so you can fool around with your high school lover, which is the singular most American of institutions, and one countless ISIS members surely wish they could experience.  The video for said ode to necking was filmed at a mall in Ogden, Utah, which is to Raqqa (ISIS capital) as Rand Paul is to Kruschev (although Ogden might have just as few bars as East Syria).  Singing this song at karaoke is the equivalent of getting a tattoo of a bald eagle holding an american flag machine gunning a communist to death with a woman on a motorcycle in the background running over Saddam Hussein while blasting Deep Purple.  Tiffany is the ultimate Syrian American.  Tiffany is the ultimate American.  

 

Syrians love making out, ice cream, art house cinema, and light teen movie nudity just as much as any other Americans.  These are the true cornerstones of our society, and thus more Syrians will only mean a more formidable and strong America.  

Derelict Dining: Papaya Quest

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(Originally posted on the “A New York Thing” Glob.  R.I.P.)

New York is a city of wonder and opportunity, a rising monument to the dream of our great nation.  To see it emerge in the distance elicits a shiver at the gleam, the mystery of what is contained in the alleys and avenues deep below the spires of an empire.  But it is also a city of divisions.  A short bridge ride brings one from the luxury of Columbus Circle into the hallowed grounds of Queensbridge.  Divided by a river and three socio-economic classes, the neighborhoods exist in stark contrast.

Even with rampant social stratification and disenfranchisement, there are still great equalizers, shared elements deeply embedded into the DNA of the metropolis. The hot dog sits peak atop these unifiers.  Rich or poor, Jewish or Muslim, Black or Dominican, all enjoy this gastronomique guilty pleasure.  Venture with me, lost soul, idealistic dreamer, white-collar criminal, into the world of papaya juice and hot dogs.  
1Papaya Dog:

Sometimes, in the darkest moments of my life, I choose to push myself further into the abyss.  You see, it is complete darkness, black, that is the absorption of all light.  So when I am forced to take the L train back to Kings County at 4am next to many a collared shirt-wearing merrymaker, I choose to compound the darkness in my suffering by stepping into Papaya Dog on the corner of 1st Avenue and 14th Street.  

Beyond being geographically accommodating, placed directly on the demarcation line of downtown, Papaya Dog is the most economically gracious of the Papaya Dog purveyors.  For a mere 4 dollars you are treated to 2 hot dogs and a fruit juice.  The hot dogs at Papaya Dog are good, filling and salty – all that you would want in a dog, really.  Yet, they lack a certain snap to them.  The Papaya juice is passable, but you can most certainly tell it is made from a powder.  The beverage was pleasing but also caused some sort of existential/real crisis for aNYthing’s own Torey Kish, launching him into a haze for the following half hour.  It is the decor of Papaya Dog that makes it so bleak. Standing up and eating at the windowed counter, under the bright fluorescents, one watches the world go by. Young professionals commuting home/drunk, a street book seller vending, MTA buses (that I am too scared to get on because they lack the rails of direction that ease my mind on the subway) passing by.  I eat here once every month and a half.  

Note: All of the employees at Papaya Dog are from Assiut, Egypt, where in the year 2000 the Virgin Mary appeared. They are very nice.  

Taste: Mangas

Cost: Mangas

Ease of Use: 3.5/5 Mangas

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Papaya King:

In the 1930’s, Gus Poulos founded Papaya King with the raison d’etre of providing cheap and healthy beverages to the masses.  It was a noble cause and no one batted an eyelash when these health drinks were paired with hot dogs, which no matter how delicious, are very close to the height of un-health.  Mind you, at the time you could still smoke everywhere and probably get a doctor to give you cocaine.  Papaya King was the original Juice Press, which I hope in 50 years is understood as similarly unhealthy (you won’t get diabetes but wheatgrass probably makes you prone to shingles, or something of a similar ilk).  

If you were unaware that “Papaya King” was the original proprietor of papaya juice and dogs before entering the store, which does have a dazzling neon-sign, you will when you are bombarded by thousands of “Papaya King Facts” placarded all around the shop. For example: “Papaya promotes heart health and male fertility” – debateable.  “Lenny Bruce lived on this street, and married a stripper!” That’s a cute story but so did Wiz Khalifa and I’ve already seen everyone I know naked on “the Internet”.  

The current iteration of Papaya King is very much attempting to channel the ethos of the original juice-hot dog combo.  Yet, their pursuit of capitalist grandeur and fame have diverted them from their cause.  It is 7 dollars for two hot dogs and a juice.  There is the option of multiple “toppings”, but that is putting lipstick on a pig in every sense, even if these are kosher dogs.  With this said, the hot dogs at Papaya King are quite good.  They aren’t 3 dollars better than competitors, but the skin does have an excellent snap to it.  Even so, the papaya juice was too sugary.  Further, for this price, I might as well go to Crif Dog down the street and watch people wait for hours to get into a bar that they think is cool because you go through a phone booth to get in.  Here’s a neat trick for you entrepreneurs out there: just put a pay phone next to the door of your bar and don’t let anyone in, people will pay anything to sit there.

Taste: Mangas

Cost: 1.5/5 Mangas

Ease of Use: 2.5/5 Mangas

Gray’s Papaya:

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The Gray’s Papaya on the corner of Sixth Ave and 8th St has closed, and true to my theory, is being replaced by a “Liquiteria” gourmet juice shop (fact check).  This is a tragedy, as the Village Voice once called Gray’s Papaya “The Finest Culinary Addition to Downtown” – a true Jacobin in the bourgeois brunch fiefdom of the West Village.  On the night of our hot dog evaluation  there was no time for mourning this loss.  Torey and I ventured uptown to 72nd st, Gray’s Papaya’s last location.  

“When you’re hungry, or broke, or just in a hurry!” says the sign greeting you after seventy blocks of bicycle riding.  Gray’s was founded in the 70s by Paul Gray, originally a partner in Papaya King.  This breakaway colony has maintained a much more authentic feel than its originator.  Prices have gone up, but 5 dollars for two dogs and a juice in their “Recession Special” remains a deal.  The papaya juice itself is perfect, refreshing, with a delicious milkiness and no horrible after-taste to it.  The dogs are delectable and snappy; I easily finished two of them and did not feel outwardly horrible about myself for eating five hot dogs in one hour.  They blend the notes of intense salt synonymous with a superior dog with a subtle sweetness of the buns.  The quotation placards at Gray’s are far less facetious and money grubby in their feel than at Papaya King.  “Gray’s Papaya grills a meaty beef hot dog that is a steal” – Mimi Sheraton, who according to google image search DOES NOT LOOK LIKE SOMEONE WHO ENJOYS HOT DOGS.  “Famous Hot Doggery” – Anonymous, because when we are talking great hot dogs, who needs to cite sources?  “Can slam dunk a basketball, definitely not allergic to horses.” – Anonymous, discussing Gabriel Luis Manga.   

Gray’s Papaya is the pinnacle of papaya juice-hot dog storefronts.  They combine taste, cost, and even though they are all the way uptown, the fact that they are located in Jerry Seinfeld/Kramer’s fictional neighborhood bumps them up by two ease of use points.  

Taste: Mangas

Cost: 4/5 Mangas

Ease of Use: Mangas.  

Just remember: no one looks good eating a hot dog, no one looks bad eating a hot dog.  

Derelict Dining: B&H Diner

 HELLA_BLINTZED

(Originally posted on the “A New York Thing” Glob.  R.I.P.)

In the early 1960’s my father, a Colombian immigrant and South Bronx resident, was denied entry to Cooper Union.  He promptly took the 6 train downtown, marched into the Dean’s office, and told him to go fuck himself.  This was hasty and uncouth, but also provided his first experience in the East Village, where he would then make his residence. To some, Downtown has become a sort of museum to an “edgy” past, a rock and roll theme park where rich kids get to dress up in 4,000 leather jackets.  Despite this, my father was ecstatic to hear that I would be returning from abroad to his old stomping grounds earlier this year.  “Gabo!, You gotta go to the B&H Diner and have a blintz” he told me before making fun of me mercilessly for what I pay in rent compared to his former $80 a month eleven window penthouse on 2nd Ave and 6th.

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B&H is an institution, and not a secret one.  It’s charms and cramped quarters are consistently filled with revelers and wanderers, locals and tourists.  Yet, its allure goes far beyond the fact that it is an affordable “old school” diner at the corner of 2nd Avenue and St Marks floating in an endless sea of skull engraved bongs for sale.  It means so much more, which we will now discuss.

Definitions:

Our society functions on the basis of certain truths and constants, collectively defined and agreed upon.  Pudding is delicious, the Middle East is in turmoil, the Knicks suck, green means go.  B&H is not bound by such strict norms.  True artists, they are.  In bright yellow letters they proclaim loudly, “Vegetarian”.  However, vegetarian is just a “word”, an idea, an ethos.  Why let the fact that you have said you are vegetarian stop you from eating meat?  Would you stop listening to rap music just because you are “against” “murder”?  I haven’t.   B&H lives this way, and I applaud them.  

It is true that most items on the menu are in fact vegetarian. But the sincere delicacy of B&H, one passed down to me not by my father but from the spirits that enter into my life (i.e. semi-lucid older folks I meet on the street), is the white fish, which according to society, is a meat.  

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White fish bears many similarities to tuna, which is a magical canned food.  B&H does a fantastic tuna melt on top of their homemade challah bread.  However, white fish is tuna’s better looking/smarter canned sister.  The pescatarian Rashida Jones to tuna’s Kadada.  Smoky, delicate, a palate amusing flavor with a taste that doesn’t overpower.  
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Borscht:

On this night, young Torey Kish and I chose to pair my white fish sandwich with a full sampler platter of the finer things in life: Borscht and Kasha with Gravy.  Summer has Kool-Aid, and winter has borscht, and I draw this similarity primarily based on them sharing the exact same electric red colour.  I’ll leave you to your thoughts of a huge carafe of Borscht busting through the Berlin wall to end Communism/usher in an era of political instability in Ukraine.  The Kasha was warm and filling, but not outstanding- it needed more salt.  

Ease of use:

Food at B&H is served almost instantly upon ordering.  Sandwiches are prepared in 30 seconds.  Soups are ladled out at shock-worker speeds.  The staff are friendly, yet not particularly keen on explaining dishes to you.  For example, I was banned from eating Kasha Varnishkas when I asked what it was. “Maybe next time”, they chuckled at me.  It turns out they are just bow-tie pasta.  

Destiny:

Destiny is about more than just Kelly Rowland, Beyonce, and the five or so women that Beyonce had killed in the early 2000’s.  It is about life coalescing disparate patterns, events, and people into unlikely scenarios.  I spent the majority of my early 20’s living in Cairo, Egypt (revolution, coup, pyramid themed fast food, etc).  Thus, I was taken aback when I entered into a Kosher diner specializing in Jewish eastern European food, only to be greeted by two chefs hailing from the land of the Nile: Mikey (Mahmoud) and Fawzy.  Few things in this world make white people feel weirder than hearing a fellow white person speak Arabic in a Kosher diner, but I embraced destiny, and Mikey now affectionately calls me a nickname that would take a very long time to explain here.  My point is that there is a Jewish diner run by Muslims, which would make for a probably mediocre/possibly racist sitcom about post 9/11 New York.  
HELLA_BLINTZED

Blintzes:

Somewhere, probably in the Palladium dorm at NYU, there is a 19 year old thinking themselves very funny for having a Saturday tradition called “Blunts and Blintzes”, where, as one might imagine, they and friends get very stoned and eat blintzes.  I haven’t smoked weed since high school, but I do enjoy a blintz, which is really just a yiddish chimichanga.  I’m allergic to most fruits, so choosing the blueberry blintz at B&H was not only a foray into alliteration themed desserts but a possible deathly mistake.  Luckily, I am alive, and the blintz was a decadent and fulfilling end to a great meal.  

My meals at B&H are rarely transcendent, but it is a consistent and tasty option when you want a fairly straightforward a satiating meal.  If it were a rap album, it would be Ludacris’ “The Red Light District”.  

Taste: 3.5/5 Mangas

Cost: 3.5/5 Mangas

Ease of use: 4.5/5 Mangas

Derelict Dining: Pak Punjab Deli

INSTA

(Originally posted on the “A New York Thing” Glob.  R.I.P.)

There are things you should know about me.  One is that I am not rich, and my money is mostly spent on libations and rent, leaving money for food scarce and held tightly.  Another is that I live my life according to the “Manga Scale”.  A sort of triangle diagram involving taste, cost, and ease of use.  The ideal meal, or anything in life really, should find the perfect equilibrium amongst these fluctuating and elusive traits.  

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The past 6 months of my life have been spent scurrying around New York in a series of very fortunate sublets.  One of those happened to be a subterranean abode on the corner of Second Avenue and Third Street in the East Village.  This happens to be across the street from a Manga Scale landmark, the Pak Punjab Deli.  

The East Village of New York is filled with countless comfortable and delicious locales of taste and fine dining.  The Pak Punjab is a conspicuous outcast amongst these neighbors.  They are the goth kid wearing a Bauhaus shirt in the corner of a school dance while Veselka and that Belgian french fry place slow dance to Savage Garden.  While they aren’t featured on websites such as MenuPages, they are on Yelp, which their Cashier “Talat H.” seems to think is Tinder.  Not enough can be said about how much Talat H. thinks Yelp will get him laid.  Maybe it has.  

COMBO

The Pak Punjab isn’t a destination, but rather a great place to eat for a very small amount of money when in the neighborhood and in need of sustenance.  In this case the impetus was that I would be attending a slide show about “Drag Queens of New York in the 1980’s and Early 90’s” down the street that night.  I entered the deli with aNYthing’s own Torey Kish (this is the most you will ever see that name on the internet) and the smell of cury and gasoline (Pak Punjab is mostly frequented by taxi drivers) instantly brought me back to fond memories of a winter spent in the neighborhood.  Many an intensely spicy Samosa were consumed on the way home from a night of amusement at Black Market or Le Johnson’s.  Delectable “Chicken Rolls” eaten in the shame of the dark while enjoying all that the apartment owner’s cable had to offer.  

On this night I opted for a more substantial meal, Curry Chicken.  It was an excellent choice, producing the same endorphins as finding a movie that you actually want to watch on netflix.  Unlike most chicken curries, this one was devoid of an oppressive amount of sauce.  Rather, the curry mostly covered the surface of the chicken, coating it, as if it were buffalo chicken wings.  These tender subtle nuggets were laid over an intimidating amount of brown basmati rice.  I find Basmati rice to often work in extremes, either overly watery or horrifically dry.  Pak’s rice, surprisingly, is perfect.  The proper amount of oils and flavors lingering on the complex and refined palate that you, reader, and I both possess.  Torey chose to have the lamb on top of this same rice, which looked good, though given the lamb is served as bone-on chunks, it is a meal I can only recommend to advanced derelicts.  For 6.50 each, our hunger for food and fiscal responsibility was satiated.  
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There are other hackney sub-continental favorites with similar prices and portions, such as the strangely placed “Lahore” on Crosby street (there’s nothing like eating a samosa and feeling really horrible/great about yourself while models walk by you on the way to castings).  But Pak Punjab far surpasses Lahore in the name of flavor while serving Dinkins-era portions.  The only negative to the Pak is that it smells very heavily of those same spices that make it so delicious.  This means that sitting down and eating at their most generous counter station, consisting of two chairs, might mean walking around the rest of your night with this scent on you and no kisses, let alone sex.  Luckily, there are plentiful stoops to be had on third street to plop down and plunder your curry.  Just make sure not to sit on that chair outside the hell’s angels clubhouse that they are ADAMANT is only for their members.  

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I hope you all get to enjoy Pak Punjab one day.  May you “find yourself” through this gastronomique journey of thrift and mouth feels the same way white people “find themselves” in the vast expanses of India (Yes, I am aware that Pak Punjab is Pakistani food: Americans, don’t go to Pakistan to find yourself).  

Pak Punjab:

Taste 3.75/5 Mangas

Cost ⅘ Mangas

Ease of Use: ⅗ Mangas