Posts Tagged ‘Henry Hudson’

Letter From New York 11 02 15 Working on not to being a cranky old man…

November 2, 2015

Henry Hudson.  Hudson River. Russian Jet Crash. Halloween. The Red Dot. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.  Amazon Prime. Benedict Cumberbatch.  Hamlet. Ophelia. European Refugee Crisis. Sumte, Germany. Nazi. Turkey. Erdogan.

I am gliding south on the 8:45 out of Hudson, down to the city for a few meetings this week and then will head back Wednesday evening. The Hudson River is still and mirrors the muted colors of fall. A barge makes its way north to Albany. In certain stretches, it is possible to imagine that this was the way the river looked when Henry Hudson first sailed north.

It is so placid a scene that it is almost possible to detach from the battering of the news.

It has been two days since I have written; Saturday afternoon I was having a late, for me, brunch at the Red Dot before heading home to service any Trick or Treaters. Several people were sitting not far from me, chatting rather loudly and raucously about their summer exploits of jet skis and pool parties, dancing and dating.

At the moment, I was reading the New York Times and was feeling very aware of the various crises that are engulfing the planet. A Russian jet had crashed in the Sinai earlier that day. More had drowned in the Aegean and Germany is preparing to settle nearly a million refugees within its borders.

The conversation happening not far from me grated on me. Unreasonably, I wanted to walk over and say to them something like: you fools! Don’t you know serious things are happening?

I didn’t.

They were having a harmless conversation. I have had harmless conversations about silly things, too. And I am also aware of what is happening in the world. It bothered me at the moment because on the Saturday of Halloween it seemed no one was paying attention except me. I was having a cranky old man moment.

Last year, there had been a few Trick or Treaters. This year, there were none. As I waited, I watched “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” from Amazon Prime. When I finished, I went off to bed to read a book, soon falling into the arms of Morpheus.

Early up on Sunday, I went off to Christ Church, slipping away after communion because I had a ticket for an HD version of Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Hamlet.” He and the production were superb. It is the first time I have witnessed a production that indicated that Ophelia was fragile even before the Prince of Denmark’s attentions.

At home, afterwards, I did some paperwork and read some more and am now heading down to the city.

The Russian airliner is much in the news; it apparently broke up in mid-air and it is being posited that some “external event” resulted in the loss.

In Germany, one small town of 102 individuals is being asked to take in 750 refugees. The Mayor of Sumte’s wife thought it was a joke when they were first notified. It has energized a youngish local Nazi who has a seat on the town’s council: it will be good for his brand of politics he thinks. This is a harbinger of the challenges facing Germany and those challenges also threaten Angela Merkel’s position as Chancellor.

Erdogan has won a big victory in Turkey, giving him the impetus to push forward once again with a plan for an executive presidency, not that it has been a de facto executive presidency since Erdogan took that office. He has been playing the role of both Prime Minister and President as he feels like it, a bit like the arrangement Putin had with Medvedev.

The day, which began gloriously, has turned grey as we have moved south. Mild temperatures are expected this week, a last gasp of Indian summer.

Loving to entertain, I am having two sets of people in for dinner this week.

We will talk, I’m sure, of silly things and serious matters and I will do my best to not be a cranky old man.

A Tale of Two Towns, July 27, 2009

July 28, 2009

Letter From New York
July 26, 2009

A Tale of Two Towns


This past Saturday felt like an old-fashioned summer day; warm to the edge of hot, muggy to the edge of insufferable, sun showers – crowds swarming Warren Street, moving from shop to shop with the riverfront swelled by crowds looking to study the Halfe Maen [Half Moon], the half size replica of Henry Hudson’s vessel which was docked in Hudson as part of the 400th Anniversary Celebration of Captain Hudson’s historic voyage up the river that bears his name.

Standing on the waterfront, looking at the half sized Half Moon I thought: at full size I might have trusted it to carry me up and down the river but across the Atlantic? No. I prefer something more the size of the Queen Mary II for that voyage. Looking at the wooden craft, I imagined 400 years ago. It must have taken tremendous courage – or foolhardiness – to set sail from the old world for the new. The Half Moon may have been the height of maritime technology at the time but it’s not very spectacular four centuries later when we can compare it to the Queen Mary II – the Half Moon would probably easily into one of QM II’s holds.

While I was attempting to imagine crossing an ocean in a ship twice the size of the craft I was staring at, I found myself thinking of another anniversary that occurred last week – the 40th anniversary of man’s landing on the moon. Apollo 11 was the height of space technology at the time and yet the further we get from that moment when Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” we now know that their craft was the space equivalent of the Half Moon, best available but crude at best.

A few months ago I read somewhere that the Apollo 11 mission was not expected to succeed. In fact, speechwriters worked hard at crafting words for President Nixon so that he could announce their deaths to the world should the mission, as expected, fail. The best-case scenario seemed to be that Apollo 11 would probably have to abort and return to earth without successfully landing on the moon.

However, the Eagle did land.

Standing on the riverfront while appraising the Half Moon, I found tears coming to my eyes as I thought of the courage of Hudson and his men willing to toss themselves out onto the cold Atlantic in a voyage of exploration. The feeling was intensified when I thought of the men of the Apollo 11 mission: Collins, Armstrong, Aldrin, men who chose to risk their lives to learn more about the unknown, to stretch man’s reach to the moon if not yet to the stars, to begin the long hard journey out into space – “the final frontier,” to toss themselves out in the coldness of space in a voyage of exploration.

The only autograph I have ever asked for was from Buzz Aldrin, one of the Apollo 11 three. At the request of my friend Howard Bloom, I orchestrated a meeting for him at History Channel. As he was about to get into the car to head for the airport, I couldn’t resist and it sits framed in a place of pride in my home office. I want to be reminded of that kind of courage as often as possible.

Life often seems daunting and impossible, occasionally causing even the most stalwart of souls to edge on despair. It is good when edging on those moments to think of those who risked their lives to stretch the horizon of the world inhabited by other human beings.

Thankfully, Nixon did not have to give that speech and the first three men to the moon are still alive and were able to celebrate their anniversary. Hopefully, by the 50th anniversary of their feat we will have returned to the moon and start the long march to the stars – because it is the “final frontier” and the human race seems to do best when it stretches its imagination and efforts to know the unknown, to find the wonder of being human.