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Posts Tagged ‘Orlando’

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The little bits of chopped peanut on top didn’t hurt.

Notes from an afternoon in Princeton, last Wednesday. God, but I ate well, but I’ll come back to that.

Background: I went to a small boarding school nearby with students from all over the world. You couldn’t help but become friends with kids from Orlando, FL, the Caribbean, the Ivory Coast, Bangkok, Taiwan, because that’s largely whom you bumped into in the halls and while brushing your teeth at night. A few years of living with a variety of faces and accents felt very normal, which I didn’t realize until I went to a college where everyone looked like me and was mostly from NJ or PA. It was a good college, but it felt bland as pasta straight out of the pot.

Foreground: Princeton was crowded, cold and grey though it was. A handful of us were ordinary Caucasian Americans. The rest? It was like the U.N. was on its lunch break and pouring down Nassau Street. Here, as at my high school, this was the rule.

I heard Cockney English spoken behind me outside the bookstore, Russian beside me at the crosswalk. A group of three—two young students of Middle Eastern and Latino descent and an African-American cop—were chatting idly and chuckling outside a falafel shop, their breaths puffing in the cold.

the bent spoon, my favorite ice cream shop in NJ, was closed for vacation. Which pained me, as it was Chocolate Day and I had planned to make it count, but on my way there I had spotted a sign outside Jammin’ Crepes advertising a Mousse Parfait special. It wasn’t chocolate, but it was probably worth trying my tears for. The place is fantastic.

I sat down and ate the above—that’s peanut butter mousse layered with homemade jam and whipped cream, with toasted sugared crepe chips on the side—very slowly. This was while listening to a couple speaking Parisien French right beside me (p.s., they ate every bite of their crepes, and they’d know from crepes) and another couple speaking the Queen’s English behind me.

Diversity reminds me of some of the best years of my life, simply put. I feel calmer when the people around me don’t look and sound just like me. It sounds counter-intuitive, but I actually feel like I fit in better. It was an immensely peaceful experience.

And I noticed on my way back to my car that those two kids and the cop were still kibitzing in the cold about nothing in particular.

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Today after hearing about the nightmare in Orlando I came across a New York Times article about a man who bought several acres of land in arid northern Morocco. There he built a house and created a lush garden full of fig trees and flowers. Not only did it require thousands of man hours hauling away tons of dry, depleted dirt and replacing it with arable soil, but the area also has its share of scorpions and vipers near the rocks.

So while I’m reading this and marveling at the beautiful job he did, I couldn’t help but think, ‘Yeah, but jeeeez! Scorpions? Vipers? One bite is lethal! Why on earth would you choose to live there?’

The answer’s simple: It’s because there are scorpions and vipers everywhere. We have to live in the mess. But we still, all of us, have a chance—I’d argue an innate duty—to make *anywhere* we live better, even if it’s just committing to smile at one person on the street per day.

(Caveat: this is not about tolerating abuse. If you’re in a place where one or more vipers are always in your face, make a change. Exhausted and demoralized serves precisely nobody.)

Building beauty, even in little tiny bits.

Steering clear of the rocks as best we can.

Finding peace under the fig trees.

Hell’s bells…such a caring climate might even make the lurkers more docile. Could it hurt?

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