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Lunch in The Rose Garden at the United Nations

  • Subject: [cg] Lunch in The Rose Garden at the United Nations
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2003 19:01:29 EST

A number of years back, when I was a contract paralegal for a large drug 
company near the United Nations in NYC, I would take a bag lunch on nice 
days, and eat it on international territory. After a morning of poring over 
legal documents, getting outside for lunch was a head clearer. 

On the UN campus, in addition to the Secretariat & General Assembly buildings 
they show you on TV,  is a landscaped, formal garden.  The statuary ranges 
from  Soviet Social Realist statues of heavily muscled folks beating spears 
into ploughshares, to decommissioned intercontinental rockets to Asian peace 
bells and the like.  In the midst of  carefully manicured lawns there is a 
rather nice little rose garden and a few benches. 

Great minds think alike - there were lunchtime regulars on those benches who 
worked at the UN or were from nearby offices.  We would nod at each other, 
look at each other's lapel pins (nation, corporate, whatever) and would 
diplomatically talk about the weather, traffic, or the roses.  Lunch, 
decompression and a little quiet was why we were there. 

One day I brought a couple of pint baskets of tomatoes from my raised bed in 
the Clinton Community Garden.  My co-workers at the drug company had glommed 
on one basket in the small cafeteria the day before,  but as  I had an 
embarrasing wealth of cherry tomatoes,  I took some of them with me to "my" 
bench by the UN roses.

 The regulars nodded to me and I to them.  When I pulled out the baskets, I 
said, "from my garden, would you like some? I promise you they're not 
drugged" (a wag from Germany called me the "drug dealer".) 

And so the baskets circulated around the benches. The Russian, who was always 
very curious about "new patents and trade between our countries", actually 
became human and talked about collecting wild mushrooms  near his family's 
dacha out side of Leningrad,  an Arab diplomat started passing around a tin 
of "dates from back home" and an English lady asked us if any one had ever 
really looked at the roses carefully.  

When we said no, she lead us on a tour of the  rose bushes as if they were 
old, personal friends.  Evidently the English was going home to Britain to 
retire in the fall, "to my own garden, thank you very much" and didn't want, 
"the roses to be ignored when I'm gone." 

So we all got up as she showed us which bush had been donated by this nation 
or that, which rose bush needed replacing, according to her, and which had 
the most delightful smell in June.  Our little group was charmed. One of her 
co-workers called her Violet, so I learned her name. 

I invited them all to visit the Clinton Community Garden - two eventually 
showed. The first were the Chinese, who had a trade mission near by and 
wanted to make local friends and did. 

Violet showed up on a sweltering September Saturday, and was all smiles. She 
requeste and received a few seed and cuttings for her garden at home.  A 
happy memory from New York, she said.  I asked her what had kept her busy at 
the UN. "Alas, land mines.  I should send the diplomats here to remind them 
much easier it is to plant tulips..." 

Thinking of spring, tulips and peace....

Your friend,
Adam Honigman

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