Saturday morning was another delicious breakfast made by Emma– sweet quinoa with pecans and dried apricots. Yum! Emma had to work again and Gwen had gone back to New Haven on Friday (to return on Saturday afternoon), so I headed uptown to visit my dad where he was staying with some good friends at 207th & Broadway. We spent some time hanging out around there and walked over to a little farmers’ market. It really was starting to look like fall in NY and I think it helped that everywhere I turned there were more pumpkins:
One of the vendors had vegan cookies, so I got a huge carrot raisin cookie that was quite satisfying–pretty healthy tasting, kind of bread-like and gigantic!
Dick Hughes, the friend my dad was staying with, is one of seven siblings from Pittsburgh who have been family friends for decades (my mom met them in her college days). Dick has been involved in political action in and about Vietnam since the 1960s. In 1968, Dick received a call for the draft to go to Vietnam with U.S. military forces. He fundamentally opposed the war and, refusing the draft, became a conscientious objector. He did in fact head to Vietnam then, not as a soldier, but as a freelance journalist, determined to find out what was really going on and report back. When he arrived in Saigon in 1968, he was moved by the many children living on the streets. He and a friend brought some of them into the apartment they were renting, providing food, shelter, and support. This casual arrangement, born out of necessity and compassion, evolved into the Shoeshine Boys Project (named as such because the children subsisted mainly on shining shoes). An internationally recognized movement with 8 shelters for homeless children in Vietnam, this project has helped at least 2500 kids. Dick was in Vietnam for 8 years (1968-1976) helping to organize education, shelter, and support for Vietnamese children who needed it. This was the beginning of Dick’s involvement with political action relating to Vietnam and a life-long commitment to improving the lives of Vietnamese affected by the war. You can listen to a video of Dick telling his story here.
Articles about Dick’s involvement:
“A Family Once More” (Pittsburgh Post Gazette)
When I arrived on Saturday, Dick was in the heat of organizing an event to promote the new re-release of two books on the effects of Agent Orange by Fred Wilcox.
One book, called Scorched Earth: Legacies of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam, is about the lasting and devastating impacts of Agent Orange use during the Vietnam War on generations of Vietnamese. The other book, called Waiting for an Army to Die: The Tragedy of Agent Orange, is about the impact of Agent Orange use on American soldiers in Vietnam during the war. For those not familiar with the history of Agent Orange use in warfare in Vietnam, Agent Orange is a dioxin chemical herbicide and defoliant manufactured by Monsanto and Dow during the Vietnam War for the U.S. Department of Defense. In Vietnam, American troops sprayed millions of acres of land with this chemical, aiming to destroy forest cover as well as the ability of the Vietnamese to grow their own food for survival. The use of Agent Orange has affected at least 3 million people, causing directly the death and maiming of close to half a million Vietnamese and at least half a million severe birth defects in future generations of children who are currently sick and dying from Agent Orange exposure.
Noam Chomsky wrote the introduction to Scorched Earth and he was coming in on Monday to attend the event. The event was promotional for the books, but also educational about the horrific effects of Agent Orange. I wasn’t there for the event (I’d already returned to Seattle), but I heard it was a great success–very well attended and all went smoothly. On Saturday, we headed out to the upper west side to hand out flyers informing New Yorkers of the upcoming event and also getting the word out that the effects of Agent Orange were still very much a pressing issue. It was so nice to be with the Hughes clan and to spend some time with my dad; they’re all such amazingly good people and it is so heartening to be around them.
I didn’t end up making it to Occupy Wall Street because after the leafletting I was scheduled to meet up again with Gwen and Emma. We were meeting another friend, Leah, for dinner at Blossom. I had been to Blossom before on another trip to NY and really liked it. And they happen to have Gwen’s all-time favorite piece of carrot cake. I ordered a kale salad with a lemon dressing and pecans on top and a bowl of spicy lentil soup. It hit the spot as I had been feeling slightly greens-deprived. For dessert we ordered a couple of pieces of carrot cake to share, which was quite delicious. The pictures did not turn out well, so you’ll just have to use your wild imaginations to picture this meal. After dinner, we headed back to Brooklyn and snuggled up with a glass of wine, some tea and chatted until we were ready for bed.
On Sunday, Emma and I said our goodbyes first thing because she had to head off to work. Gwen and I decided to head up to 207th again to visit with my dad for a couple of hours. Even though it was a short amount of time, I was glad we went up to see him again and got to spend a bit more time with the Hughes family. After visiting, we headed back down to Brooklyn and stopped at Bliss Cafe again for brunch before I had to head to the airport. I resisted the urge to get another bowl of chili and cornbread, and tried instead the vegan breakfast burrito, which was served with vegan sour cream, chili, and salsa. It was tasty (though not quite so much as the chili/cornbread combo) and very filling for my trip home:
All in all, a lovely trip to NY with wonderful people and wonderful food. But I have to admit, it’s good to be back home!