Sierra Leone, St. Louis Park MN, and Cafe Deluxe

1. Sierra Leone. The civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s was clearly awful. Just how awful it was can be glimpsed in the memoirs of Ishmael Beah, “A Long Way Gone”, published in 2007. Beah, now living in Brooklyn, having moved to the United States in 1998 at the age of 18, and graduated from Oberlin College in 2004, was trapped by the war in his native country and impressed into the Sierra Leone army at age 13. His native village was attacked by rebels the year before, he was separated from his family (other than his older brother) and with several other boys escaped into the forest, where they lived by hook or crook for the next year or so, before he wound up a soldier witnessing and being involved as an active participant in atrocity after atrocity. The story is, to a middle aged American, mind boggling.

What is equally mind boggling, however, is the sophistication of this changeable group of 6 or 7 boys, and their resourcefulness. Beyond that, Beah obviously shines above the others – educated in English, he was a fan of Shakespeare, able to recite from memory some of the memorable speeches of the Bard and able to discuss Shakespeare with one of the rebel officers. He and others were also fascinated by rap music, and he was part of a young performing group, just beginning to participate in local talent shows before the war erupted, and they took their cassettes with them as they wound through the countryside.

Luck and talent brought Beah to the United States, where he now heads an NGO focusing on the reorientation to society of former child soldiers.

His book is not without controversy, and has been attacked as being an exaggerated account and mentioning events and dates that cannot be corroborated and at times might even have been inaccurately described. Beah has responded forcefully to his critics. And of course it is impossible for a reader to know.

2. St. Louis Park, MN. St. Louis Park is the site of the new Coen Brothers movie, “A Serious Man”, which we saw tonight. Let me simply say that I thought the movie was awful. I am going to leave it at that.

3. Cafe Deluxe. Dinner at Cafe DeLuxe in Bethesda was, as always, very good, although I stuck with a salmon salad nicoise and a glass of Merlot. But all was good – the greens, the light dressing, the warmed salmon. I joined their frequent eater club – I don’t think I will ever get a free meal, but maybe a birthday present?

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