Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better to paint a picture or write a letter? Bake a cake or plant a seed, ponder the difference between want and need? Dust if you must, but there’s not much time, with rivers to swim and mountains to climb. Music to hear and books to read, friends to cherish and life to lead. Dust if you must, but the world’s out there, with the sun in your eyes and the wind in your hair. A flutter of snow, a shower of rain, this day will not come around again. Dust if you must, but bear in mind, old age will come and it’s not kind. And when you go, and go you must you, yourself will make more dust. This poem written by Rose Milligan from Lancaster in Lancashire, England, first published Sept. 15, 1998, in the 21st edition of “The Lady,” “in continuous publication since 1885 and widely respected as England’s longest running weekly magazine for women.”
With the onset of summer and the last round of spring cleaning, I found this poem to be most appropriate as I cleaned out the dust from the most unexpected places. My grandmother used to say, “If you’re gonna clean, you have to move everything. You can’t just dust around the surface.” So true because there it was—dust. But now like spring, it’s gone, thanks to a good old invention called the vacuum cleaner.
Not gone but coming is Victoria’s Secret to 125th Street. The franchise has finally made its way to Harlem, along with all of the other major chains. Located off the corner of Lenox Avenue, a couple of doors up from Whole Foods, Olive Garden and American Eagle, there will also be a Bath and Body Works conveniently next door to Victoria’s Secret. Now you can smell amorous and look that way too.
I think it is safe to say that business is good along the 125th Street corridor. There are some really good finds in places such as TJMaxx, Marshall’s and H&M, and if you want a good selection of shoes DSW is spot on.
After all of that shopping, there is no shortage of places to eat. If you just want to sit down for a minute, rest your packages and have a quick snack, Harlem Shake serves a good glass of wine and fresh-cut french fries. My favorite for oven-baked pizza is still Babbaluccis. The lines to get into Sylvia’s makes your mouth water for fried chicken, potato salad, candied yams, string beans or maybe just a waffle, with a margarita on the side; the bartender is quite adept.
Lenox Sapphire always has a delightful crowd, and you never know who you might run into. Although the dishes are spicy, it’s an unbeatable flavor, and if you haven’t been there, it’s definitely worth trying.
The newly renovated Chez Lucciene has had no trouble getting off the ground. All of the former patrons have returned, along with some new faces. Outdoor seating is still a favorite, regardless of the hustle and bustle of the Lenox Avenue, 125th Street corner.
Speaking of the corner, if you want to dash around and head toward Fifth Avenue, there is an outdoor vegetable vendor who has the best produce—fresh and reasonably priced. He even has okra. I personally don’t like okra, but if I did, I would definitely buy a pound from this vendor. A little further down the block is the hardware store with a variety of plants, one for every room, whether shady or sunny.
Continuing to hold its own is Lenox Social, which has a good menu, although I prefer a side of fresh sautéed vegetables and sweet fried plantain. As you can tell, I have a varied diet. Although the inside can be extremely loud, once you settle in, the service is good, friendly and overall enjoyable. Plus, it is so convenient to your next stop, wherever that may be. Shusi, Hauka or Mexican, if there is one thing that you have plenty of, it’s choices. After all, isn’t that what we strive for in life, choices?
Bestselling author Tayari Jones was among the guest readers as the Ucross Foundation hosted its inaugural New York Gala & Awards Dinner at The Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Ucross Foundation was established in 1981. Its home is in northeast Wyoming, in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains. Its objective is to foster the creative spirit of deeply committed artists and groups by providing uninterrupted time, studio space, living accommodations and the experience of the majestic High Plains while serving as a good steward of its 20,000-acre ranch. Residencies are awarded to nearly 100 artists each year. Ten artists are in residence at one time, typically a mix of four visual artists, four writers and two composers. The evening began with the typical cocktail hour, where in attendance was fellow artist, Michael Jackson.
Tayari, a graduate of Spelman College, has authored several books, such as “Leaving Atlanta,” “The Untelling,” “Silver Sparrow” and “An American Marriage” (Algonquin Books, February 2018). She has received many honors for her literary prose, including the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. Although I absolutely dislike sending you to any other publication, The New York Times Book Review has a very interesting question and answer section with Tayari. She speaks of books that made her laugh (“Heads of the Colored People” by Nafissa Thompson-Spires), made her cry (“White Houses” by Amy Bloom) and made her furious (“Cutting School” by Noliwe Rooks).
Just reading the synopsis of “Cutting School” made me furious as well. It has a chapter about single moms tossed into prison for trying to enroll their children into schools in better-resourced neighborhoods. When mom is in jail, where do the children go—into foster care. Tayari said that chapter, in particular, made her so furious she “threw the book across the room and paced the floor.” I know the feeling of what it is like to try and get your child into a good school only to be confronted with unbearable, anxiety-ridden, unimaginable obstacles not because your child doesn’t meet the academic standards, but all because your child is not what the school wants or allows. The hardness of hearts.
Until next week…kisses.