Charles In Charge

Written by admin on . Posted in On Topic OTDT, Opinion and Column.


A long time ago, Al D’Amato’s brother, Armand, beat a criminal rap, George Pataki got elected governor with D’Amato’s backing and D’Amato won a new term as U.S. Senator. D’Amato went around bragging that he had “won the Trifecta.”

Later, Chuck Schumer took on D’Amato and beat him, and now Schumer has won the Trifecta himself. He is thought to have gotten Kirsten Gillibrand selected by Gov. David Paterson to be U.S. Senator. Now it looks like Schumer got the President of the United States to call Rep. Steve Israel, who would have defeated Gillibrand in a primary, to ask him to stay out of the race. Finally, Chuck has just had his staff counsel named U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, probably the most powerful in the United States.

It would appear that Chuck Schumer may be the most powerful politician in the United States. After all, he is generally credited with having delivered the U.S. Senate to Democrats. The party owes him a lot, and the President owes him a lot.

So let’s see whether this is good for the people and for democracy. Primaries were invented to give people a choice. When the country passed a constitutional amendment providing for the direct election of senators and getting that choice out of the hands of the cigar-smoking backroom boys, it was a good thing for democracy. When a President makes a telephone call and tells a fine candidate to get out of the race, it is decidedly not a good thing, especially when it would appear that Israel was the leading candidate. One can only wonder if, with Chuck whispering his ear, Obama called the others whose names have been mentioned, like Carolyn Maloney and Carolyn McCarthy.

Chuck once called and asked if he could come to Albany to announce that he would vote for the war in Iraq. I was delighted to host him, even though I was certainly opposed to the war. It was a great thing for the public radio stations I run, but because I wanted to keep things from degenerating, I announced we would have audience members write their questions on cards and I would read the cards to the senator. When I came into the hall, an older man was yelling at a staff member that he “…didn’t care who I was and he was going to stand up and have it out with the $%^&^*”

I asked him to lower his voice and told him I expected him to play by the rules, at which point the guy standing next to him threw a cup of hot coffee at my head. Someone called the police, who asked if I wanted to press charges. I declined. But the best part came when Chuck walked into the hall and asked in a loud voice, “Where’s the peacenik who threw the hot coffee at Chartock?” That was Chuck at his funniest and his best. Now I think the situation may be becoming more serious.

Alan S. Chartock is president and CEO of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and an executive publisher at The Legislative Gazette.

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Charles’ in Charge

Written by None - Do not Delete on . Posted in Breaking News, Posts.


The first thing to know about Charles’ Southern Style Kitchen on Lenox at 125th is that it’s in the back of a pizzeria called Slice of Harlem. For no good reason, this is unsettling, most of all if you’re there to eat soul food while everyone else is munching on pepperoni pie. I suppose if you wanted the real Charles’ experience, you wouldn’t have minded heading Uptown.

Yes, this is Charles’ Downtown branch, as it’s cutely called, but only in relation to the primary restaurant on 151st Street. Now that you know all this, walk straight to the back once you’re inside the pizza shop. Whether you are eating in or taking your food to go, you’ll find a steam table with a dazzlingly complicated array of instructions regarding how much each different food costs and what plastic or styrofoam receptacle you should put that food in. Ignore all of this and grab a styrofoam box. It’s all cheap and, unless you’re a glutton, you will eat for a song.

The steam table confronts you with a multitude of sins: Oxtail, spare ribs, rib tips, butter beans, black eyed peas, baked fish, collards, corn, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, beef stew and others vie for attention and space in your stomach. The fried chicken and cornbread are kept under heat-lamps and watchful eyes near the register. They are sold separately by cashiers who are devastatingly polite, considering the price at which you’re stealing their food. Near the register, there’s also a hot sauce that brightens up anything that may have been sitting too long.

If you’re taking your food to go, then go. If you’re sitting, avoid the last table along the wall, as it’s where employees tend to take their breaks. Pick another, and go ahead and pop open that lid. Rip it off if you’re sure you’ll finish your meal. The short walk from register to table should’ve already swirled up the sauces and seasonings and flavors of the food you selected. Taste how the too-sweet yams are cut by the zesty butter running off the collard greens. Notice how the lima beans’ smooth texture soaks up the white gravy that the oxtails were smothered in. Smell how the sweet, dark, tangy barbecue sauce on the ribs infects your every breath with a smoky but crisp aroma.

Do yourself a favor and drag your plastic fork through the food, and don’t even look at what ends up stuck to it. Just smell it and pop it into your mouth. Nothing at Charles’ Kitchen stands out as the best in its class, but taken together, the magnificent jumble of taste and textures easily surpass what’s dished at out at Harlem’s other soul food emporiums.

The fried chicken also benefits from dredging. Rip off a shred and drag it through the flotsam running all over your container, whose high walls you are starting to appreciate for their ability to dam up those varied sauces. I’ve had better fried chicken, but there’s nothing wrong with Charles’ and, like the cornbread, it too benefits from being exposed to a Pandora’s box of flavors.

If I were trying to impress friends by taking them to a real, non-tourist trap soul food joint, I might take them to Charles’ “Uptown” branch. If I just wanted the same good meal 25 blocks to the south, I would take them instead to the back of this pizza joint on Lenox Avenue. I wish Charles had his own shop here, a nicer spot in the sun at which to showcase his talents. But Charles has clearly decided to make his bones in the back of another restaurant, and the vittles he’s dishing out stick to them like white on rice. (About $8 for a hearty meal.)

Charles’ Southern Style Kitchen
308 Lenox Ave. (near. 125th St.)
212-722-7727
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