Monday, March 24, 2008

A great day in Harlem

With the miraculous weather we've had these past few days, we took the A train and landed on 125th St, for a stroll in Harlem. We took notice of many new buildings with condos for sale. And a brand new H&M. Hmmmm...
We saw half the population of Europe strolling around Harlem, as we were. Groups of Spanish, French, Italians, Germans. We could surmise no such groups of white Americans, alas. Not surprising, but very sad. They could learn something of this great neighborhood.
The Europeans come to Harlem fascinated, one assumes, by the history of Jazz and the blues and of Black people in America.
They sit on the stoops across the Abyssinian Church and watch the splendidly dressed congregation come out of the service. The crowd was resplendent in their Easter Sunday best. It is a little strange, not to say, declassé, in bad taste, rude and slightly awkward, for the tourists to be gawking shamelessly like that, but what can you do? Tourists are like that.
I think most Europeans have no clue about America and they have these romanticized notions of this country, when they are not hating it to bits, but at least they show curiosity and interest. Being that many of them live in countries that are even more racist than ours, I wonder what they're thinking.
When I go to Belleville or Barbés in Paris, to visit the African neighborhoods, there are hardly any tourists, ever. I hope I don't gawk like that. One tries to be an unobtrusive tourist, the best kind.
Then we walked to 151 and Frederick Douglass to eat the world's best fried chicken at Charles' Southern Kitchen and its amazing all you can eat buffet, which is now all of 13 bucks per person.
This place has like 6 tables. The tables are incredibly idiosyncratic. There are two big round tables, and like three small square tables. The tables are not designed for maximum eater turnaround, like everywhere else in NY. We shared a table with a German family. They had a NY guide book and were meticulously crossing out every Harlem landmark they had visited. As seems to be the case with Germans for some reason (in my experience), the wife was very nice and polite and the husband was not.
I made a huge mistake. I heaped on too much mac and cheese, and collard greens and candied yams, when I should have been concentrating on the chicken, one bite of which transports you to heaven immediately. I was so stuffed I thought I was going to grow wings, I had so much fried chicken from Charles, who should be a national hero.

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