Monday, November 17, 2003

Nostalgia News

An Open Message for Bill Clinton: Your Neighbors in Harlem Miss You Like Crazy
Consider this an open letter from the citizens of 125th Street to former President Bill Clinton. Its message is simple: Mr. Clinton, please come home.

Anthony Rembert, 39, says he misses Mr. Clinton in the neighborhood: "Come back to the area, please. We want you to be part of the community."

Rebecca Pacheco, 23, says that if Mr. Clinton were around more often, he might be able to help her find a job: "Maybe you could have your people's people's people help me out."

Ali Shama, who runs the coffee cart outside Mr. Clinton's office, says he is somewhat tired of covering for the well-traveled former president: "Many people come around to ask about you, sir. It has happened maybe 10 or 15 times. I have to tell them that you are not around."

When Mr. Clinton moved into 55 West 125th Street in July 2001, it was hailed in certain parts of Harlem as the first installment of the Second Coming. A crowd of 2,000 — chanting "We love Bill!" — gathered on the streets to greet Mr. Clinton, who appeared before the masses to a violin rendition of "We Shall Overcome."
Violins no less! And presumably Kool-Aid for all.
The former president and Harlem seemed the perfect match. Both were in the early stages of a renaissance. Both loved soul food. Both had ties to the South. Speaking to his adoring audience that day more than two years ago, Mr. Clinton made a promise. "I want to make sure I'm a good neighbor in Harlem," he said.

In the past two years, however, Mr. Clinton, like many neighbors in New York, has been a passing, rather than a palpable, presence in the neighborhood.
His absence has been noticed on 125th Street, where people say they have occasionally seen him, under Secret Service guard, ducking through the back door of his office — if, that is, they have seen him at all.
Bubba has lots of experience ducking in back doors, but if he hasn't been at the office, what has the beamish boy been up to?
This year alone, he has traveled to Los Angeles to campaign for Gov. Gray Davis, to Kosovo to visit American soldiers serving with the United Nations peace-keeping force and to China to press its government to confront a growing AIDS crisis.
And piping up from the peanut gallery whenever he gets a chance.
A spokesman for Mr. Clinton's office pointed out that while Mr. Clinton has certainly been on the move, he has still had time to visit Jimmy's Uptown (three times), the Sugar Hill Bistro, the Bayou restaurant, Londell's restaurant, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Dance Theater of Harlem, Roberto Clemente Elementary School, the Frederick Douglass Academy, the Apollo Theater (three times), Sylvia's restaurant and Dee's Card Shop (for some Christmas shopping), to name more than a few.

When Mr. Clinton is not on the road, the spokesman said, he splits his time between his Harlem aerie and his home in Chappaqua, in Westchester County, where he is said to be working on his memoirs. "When he's in town, he comes by maybe once every couple of weeks," said Robert Collins, the chef at Lang's Little Store and Deli, one of Mr. Clinton's haunts in Chappaqua. "He's here a lot on weekends."
Ah yes, the memoirs. I can hardly wait.
Over all, 125th Street still remains a thriving chapter of the Bill Clinton fan club, and there are those on the street who consider themselves lucky to actually have seen the man in recent weeks.
Kinda like me and Elvis.
Sharon Alexander, 43, rode in the elevator with the former president last month as she was heading to work at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Her message now is the same she had for him that day as they stood side by side: "I love you, Bill, but I need to see you more."
Don't disappoint them Bill! And don't bother the rest of us.