Happy: September 2003 Archives

Boubacar Diallo came to New York three years ago, speaking only french and Fulani. Today he appears on Newsday's Profile page.

Second-year student in LaGuardia Community College's computer science program; an officer in the college's Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, he has been on the dean's list every semester and tutors fellow students as part of the Academic Peer Instruction Program.

Diallo was awarded a scholarship for academic achievement from CUNY in June. After graduating from LaGuardia next year he plans to go on to Stony Brook or City College to study computer information systems. The handsome Guinean hopes to stay in this country, which makes us very fortunate indeed.

"My philosophy is that whatever goes around comes around. Whatever you do to help others will come back to you. So it's better to be good than bad to others. That's why I enjoy tutoring. When you see other students happy it makes me happy, too. I have seen people struggling through some difficult classes and because I know the class, have done the work, I know that I can help them."

[story alert thanks to Barry]

Not remarkable, probably not a statement, but interesting that these four sturdy guys were playing hackey sack in Union Square this afternoon almost in the midst of the inflammatory signs and very verbal tirades of a number of energetic supporters of the United States Constitution.

The signs and speakers seemed like the work of a separate group. The earnest, perky people distributing literature at the side represented the Bill of Rights Defense Campaign and The Loyal Nine, a group whose name evokes 1765 and Boston's resistance to the Stamp Act.


Our quite wonderful new friends from Bordeaux, Francois and Nicolas, left for home Wednesday night, and we missed them immediately. They are smart. They are artists. They are charming. They are interested in everything about this city and its people. This was their first trip to the U.S., and it was Francois's first trip outside of France. They chose only to visit New York this time. Of course we wanted to see that they were happy while they were here.

There is only one reason for us to be grateful their visit did not continue into the next day: Thomas L. Friedman.

Barry has already written about what they said was their one encounter with local Francophobia, and it was a doozie. Days before they left they returned here after a visit to Times Square, very upset about having seen t-shirts for sale that read, "IRAQ FIRST, THEN FRANCE." They told us that they had heard that Americans didn't like the French, but that it was the first time they had seen the evidence. I think we were able to cheer them up again by telling them that it only meant that some miserable souls are very stupid and thoughtless, even in New York.

The day after they left Friedman showed us all just how stupid and thoughtless even appointed members of the Gotham elite can be. The NYTimes columnist (how'd he get that job, and when did the Times editorial pages start to read like The Wall Street Journal's?) declared that we were at war with France, because France wants us to fail in the occupation of Iraq.

Nicolas and Francois do not wish us ill, and the vast numbers of their countrymen are no more malevolent. The French government is not our enemy. All do join every thinking American in wanting us to stop acting like fools - and worse. The best response to an appallingly stupid Op-Ed piece which really deserves none (except for the importance of its medium) appeared the next day in a letter to the editor.

Thomas L. Friedman's assertion (column, Sept. 18) that "France wants America to fail in Iraq" is akin to saying that someone who separates a drunken driver from his car keys doesn't want him to get home.
I want us to get home, but it doesn't look like we're going to make it.

France certainly has its own problems, and Nicolas and Francois were not shy about discussing them, but at least they are home. We wish them and that home the very best.

Friday afternoon, surfboards on University Place


When I left the little group with Reza yesterday afternoon I wasn’t quite ready to go home while these thoughts wandered around in my head, so I walked through Battery Park and headed toward Battery Park City by way of West Street, the western boundary of the World Trade Center pit.

The main events at the site had already ended by this time, but along that strip, parked in the path which is reserved for pedestrians, runners and bicyclists, rather than docked in the street itself, were literally dozens of large TV trucks sent to cover the “news” of the second anniversary of the events of September 11. Obviously lots of people are making lots of money from this thing still.

While I waited for what seemed like forever to be permitted by the traffic cop to cross West Street, frustrated because I didn’t want to be there anyway and my exit was now being arrested, I mumbled, “fuck this,” to myself. Just then I noticed a very patient, bright-eyed guy to my left, and his appearance calmed me.

A minute later I saw him referring to his tour guide and looking a little puzzled, so I asked if I could give him some direction. I mean, why not? I’m very familiar with the entire area, having both lived and worked there at one time, and I have been a very sad and very regular visitor for exactly two years now.

He wanted to know where he could find an elevated position to see into the pit. I could only think of the huge window in the back of the Winter Garden, just above where we stood. The entrance was difficult to locate yesterday, so, feeling some responsibility by now, I went with him.

Well, we ended up spending the entire afternoon and early evening together moving about the city. Heck, I had nothing else scheduled. Nicolas is from Bordeaux, in the middle of the two weeks of his first visit to the U.S., and we hit it off pretty well.

Like Barry and myself when we travel, he tries to engage the locals when visiting new places. I guess that was my attraction, since I’m pretty local here. On my side, it didn’t hurt that he’s very smart, had recently graduated from an arts college and is now continuing private music study to pursue a career in progressive jazz/rock, and delighted in the fact that many of his friends are gay. One is even bi [pronounced “bee”]. He’d down his homework on New York. Already seen the “classics,” he said, and it turns out he had. He had made every major art museum, including Brooklyn’s, done the Empire State and walked the Brooklyn Bridge. When I met him he had just returned from a trip on the Staten Island Ferry. Now he was ready for the streets and neighborhoods.

He, his friend here in the city, Barry and I now all have tickets for Tonic’s Monday night concert with fabulous John Zorn and Fred Frith – yes, the two together!

We're going around to galleries with Nicolas tomorrow.

He’s fallen in love with New York, he says. I think he really means it, since he seriously claims it’s quieter, and less rushed than Bordeaux, and the people are calmer!

Yes, we talked a lot about politics – French, U.S., world.

We really do love the French!

Two nights ago we enjoyed a vegan meal - at home. Of course there was wine, a Nebbiolo D'Alba.

I know, it doesn't sound like our table, but I assure friends that it was a coincidence, if not an accident. While we were still enjoying the wonderful fruits of an early trip to the Union Square Greenmarket, for some reason it occurred to me that what we were eating was totally consistent with vegan principle. As it happens, this sort of meal was not an exception for us, since most of the time we find ourselves dining simply on some southern Italian arrangement of vegetables and pasta, and only occasionally do we include smallish amounts of fish or meat. Cheese however is a more regular visitor.

I've been omnivorous all of my life, while always respecting, even contmplating alternative approaches. I have to say however that among my most memorable negative experiences with food are the meals in the 60's I shared with friends who virtually lived on brown rice and overcooked vegetables. The memory still gets in the way. But at least they were fond of the grape.

For us wine may be the ultimate argument against vegetarianism. Without traditional European foods, the wines developed in these meat, cheese and fish-eating cultures are usually just fermented grape juice. We like wine, and wine likes food.

The menu Monday evening:

Heirloom tomatoes, nestled close to a spray of purslane, both drizzled with olive oil and lightly sprinkled with fleur de sel

Crusty Puglian bread

Woodland Chanterelles sautéed in olive oil and garlic, on flat Italian noodles, and sprinkled with wild thyme.

Mixed peppery greens a with light Balsamic vinaigrette

Italian green grapes

and so would John Irving, I expect.

Socrates Sculpture Park was very quiet yesterday, but there were compensations.

This page is an archive of entries in the Happy category from September 2003.

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