Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Post-card from New York ... some medical matters too.

Postcard from New York – week two.  
Dear Patient Reader,
This was the week of my major medical visits, three Met operas (one we went back to a second time it was THAT good) as well as having two of my three wonderful sisters visit the city.  This meant returning to some traditional tourist things like the Staten Island Ferry, Irish holocaust memorial, WTC site, Frick Museum, Neue Museum, Rockefeller Center, Macys, Bloomingdales and the ubiquitous “Century 21”. 
Roberto Devereux at the Met saw American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky sing Elizabeth I, the third Donizetti queen (after Anne Boleyn and Maria Stuarda earlier in the season).  The performance sent tingles up the spine, goose-bumps elsewhere and was altogether a return to the golden age of opera.  Sold out houses, electricity in the air and applause more like at the football than the opera.  It’s on Cinema HD in Australia in July so Aussie who like that sort of thing should line up.  The opera’s finale rivals the ‘mad scene’ from Lucia with Sutherland.  And that is saying something! 
Food in New York can be disappointing, like the coffee.  But with a bit of research both can rise to the best of palates.  One sister had discovered an excellent Italian restaurant called Lupa just off Houston Street while we went back to old haunts in JoJo’s and Jean Georges (Nougatine, Columbus Circle).  Another staple is Wu Liang Ye across from the Rockefeller Center in 48th Street – great Sichuan food, huge helpings and friendly staff (try the pork dumplings, beans and egg plant).  
Jean Georges has been a treat for us every year for 19 years.  And they continue to innovate and keep up the standard as well as being good value for prix-fixe luncheon in the Nougatine.  One often sees people of note there.  We learned that Robert De Niro, Sting and Bruce Willis had been there in recent days.  Jean-Georges Vongeritchten himself was there on two of the occasions we dined there. 
Walking in Central Park is a pleasure at any time of year … but in early spring with a colour parade of flowers, bulbs and buds one has to be impressed.  And the central fountain was just re-commissioned for the year, spraying water from its bronze sculpted centre into the enormous round walled pond surrounding.  The cherry trees were just coming into full bloom by the end of the week, making a marvelous display. 
Other matters in brief: Air travel has up sides and down sides … drunk passenger at JFK causes delay as his luggage is off-loaded (‘happens quite often’, says hostess) … sick passenger with possible kidney stone … special precautions about aviation medicine … stethoscope cannot hear, need to do radial pulse blood pressure measurement … no blood urine test strips available … food variable … A380 versus 747 outdated … Aussie versus o/s airlines (no comparison) …

        Columbia University student picnic day. Magnificent campus near end of term.
I had an interesting interaction with senior medical colleagues at Columbia University Drugs and Society Seminar.  I spoke on Managed Alcohol Programs (MAP) in which hostels for the homeless, many of whom are alcoholics, allow or even serve limited amounts of alcohol each evening.  Published evidence shows dramatic reductions in medical and social consequences when this is introduced.  Most important are lower mortality and lower overall alcohol consumption.  Yet I still had some nay-sayers in the audience who believe in abstinence like a deity not to be questioned, in spite of quite solid if still limited evidence of the benefits of MAP in our society where homelessness is becoming more common. 
I also had appointments at Rockefeller University, Beth Israel and Bellevue Hospitals before my return to Sydney. 
Notes by Andrew Byrne ..