Serenaded by African-American musicians, former President Clinton staged a triumphant arrival at his Harlem office. But not all cheered.
love you Harlem!" Bill Clinton says in that famous voice that sounds like he never left the campaign trail. "Now I feel like I'm home."
Home in this case is a presidential office, located only a few blocks from where Fidel Castro once spent his nights and just down the street from the Apollo Theater, where tap dancers and blues singers tried to become the next big act. But also not far is Harlem's own Starbucks and a Disney store - both part of a renaissance that is turning the epicenter of black culture more mainstream. As such, Mr. Clinton's new "home" is just another sign that Harlem is back - now fit for an ex-president to write his memoirs or maybe check his senator-wife's speeches over.
It is a place where Clinton can feel comfortable. Harlem always voted overwhelmingly for him, regardless of his personal travails. It's not a surprise when musicians, there to greet him, break out into their own version of a Ben E. King's classic. "Staaaand by me," they sing. "President Clinton, staaaand by me."
The former first saxophonist grooves. He snaps his fingers to the Harlem Boy's Choir doo-wop, drops the name Sylvia's, a neighborhood soul-food institution, and shares his aspirations as a young jazz musician to one day play at the Apollo, alongside some of the most famous musicians around. Then he shrugs and adds, "I ain't dead yet."
The crowd roars.
It is a Harlem welcome - neighbors boisterously clapping their hands and singing along. Effectively forgotten is the fact that the former president had actually wanted to move into a deluxe high rise in Manhattan, but changed his mind under pressure over the costs.
So, he's moved uptown. "God bless you," Clinton says. He waves to the crowd. Hundreds wave back. Some snatch pictures; others haul their children onto their shoulders for a better glimpse.
Back in Washington, President Bush is addressing police about racial profiling - one of the most pervasive concerns among African-Americans today - but the event doesn't create much buzz. For blacks in largely Democratic Harlem, Monday morning is Clinton's day - and he may as well still be the president, at least in this neck of the woods.