Saturday, November 04, 2006

My Lunch with Ed Koch

Well, I didn’t actually eat with him, but we were in the same restaurant at the same time. The restaurant was Sun Lok Kee, which happened to be Koch’s favorite Chinatown restaurant. I went there with a group of coworkers, and as we were traveling I mentioned to them that this was the restaurant where Koch had choked several years earlier*. The story was big news. Koch had choked during a meal and required the Heimlich maneuver. The official story from the mayor’s office was that he had choked on something innocuous, sauteed watercress if I remember correctly. But it was later revealed that he had, in fact, choked on a piece of spare rib. Apparently, the spin doctors didn’t want to alienate the Jewish vote by letting on that hizzoner had choked on pork, so they came up with the green vegetable ruse. When one of the waiters was interviewed after the spare rib revelation he said something to the effect of, “The mayor was shoveling food in his mouth with chopsticks and talking at the same time. You shouldn’t do that.”

Koch and I crossed paths in 1988, toward the end of his third and final term. By this time I hated Koch with a passion. He was shrill and arrogant and had gone progressively right wing after a career as a model liberal congressman. By the end of his mayoralty New Yorkers either loved him or hated him. When my coworkers and I entered the restaurant we noticed that Koch was holding court at a big, round table. Just then the devil got into me. In the loudest possible stage whisper I said to one of my colleagues, “So Howard, who do you think will be the next mayor? David Dinkins? Ruth Messinger? Anybody would be an improvement.” The mayor and his cronies looked our way. From then on they were a bit less animated, more self-conscious.

As the mayor and his posse were leaving the restaurant a toady at another table said, “Your honor, what do you recommend.” In his cracked, whiny, nasal voice Koch replied, “The uh steamed oysters in the uh shell are very good.”

I don’t remember what we ate, but it was one of my most memorable lunches. My only regret is that I didn’t get to see Koch choke again.

* July 26, 1981


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