Going Back East in 2013

10 Mar

Back East Nine Days in September

 

My 2013 trip back East lasted for 9 days, from Friday, Sep 20 to Sunday, Sep 29.  This is an account of those nine days.

 

The Friday I flew, my buddy Ray drove me to LAX.  Funny thing happened once Ray dropped me off.  It took me about 15 or 20 minutes to find out how to go to the Jet Blue check-in area – the signage was not only bad – it didn’t exist!  And few people knew

anything — as excellent a corporation though Jet Blue may be, it is by no means immune from messing up.

 

Once I found where to go, everything was fine.  An amazing occurrence took place with the Homeland Security people – one of them let me go through with medical marijuana I was taking to Irene, my friend with whom I live when in NYC.  Jeez, I guess medical pot is entering the mainstream!  The HS dude laughed, made a joke, and conversed w/me re

healing herbs and plants such as burdock root, comfrey, and aloe.  Had we continued to talk, we’d have gotten to cacao, sun flowers, ginger root, and beeswax, among other subjects.  

 

I was waiting for my flight and visited the newspaper rack in the gift store.  A female voice behind me asked about one of the headlines in one of the NY papers, and I naturally answered her.  She must have liked my answer because she gave me a hand to my feet (I had been squatting) and complimented me on my knowledge.  Once I had her in my line of sight, I could see she was perfectly beautiful – starlet.  Several other people were surrounding her and getting her autograph.  I asked one of them her name and was told Ariana Grande.

 

Just before Christmas, 2013, I saw Ariana Grande singing on the Jimmy Fallon show.  She had a song and a new album called “Last Christmas” that many in the studio audience seemed to know and to sing along with.  It sounded like a swell song to me, and Ariana herself sparkled with outstanding star quality, the same as she had demonstrated to me up close and personally at LAX September 20th.

 

Holy mackerel, I can’t get over such a person acting so friendly with an oldie like me.  I had brought a camera and used it for the first time right then.

 

When I got on the plane, I found I was seated next to a working TV actress with whom I made friends during our flight.  As a veteran of a lot of flights, I only remember two other times that happened.  Once a lady and I held hands during an extremely rough flight from Puerto Rico, and another time on a Toronto/NYC flight, the plane circled around Manhattan a few times while a woman and I marveled at the sights below.

 

That was how things were to go during the entire trip – amazing numbers of new, friendly people – and me falling in love, hit by a lightning bolt.

 

The night of my arrival, I got to Irene’s place on Roosevelt Island from JFK with no trouble, using my new cell phone for the first time to tell her I was on my way.  On my way to her place, I made my way walking across the middle of Manhattan on 33rd Street, from Penn Station to the F line station at Sixth Ave. 

 

I noted two things as I approached the subway:  the streets were filled with countless numbers of good-looking young Chinese people, many paired off in couples, and two  police were standing prominently in Herald Square.  I passed by two the cops, one older and mentoring the younger one.  They were talking.  I stopped a little ways off, but close enough to eavesdrop.  The younger one, muscular as a movie hero, weapons hanging from each side of his warrior body, said to his partner:  “These guys had the drop on me.  One of them had his gun out and I thought I was facing my last moments on earth”.  Listening to that kind of talk, no wonder so many cops go into writing movie and TV scripts.  As I looked back on the crowded scene, before descending the subway steps, I surmised that besides the two uniformed cops I had overheard, some of the crowd was undercover cops. 

 

There is no comparison between NY and LA policing – in NY those on the Force are always out of their cars, on the beat — the beat is the street.   They are the heart of the city.  People know it and respect them to the ultimate level of respect.  In California, cops only get out of their cars for doughnuts.  In the Golden State there are too many cops who are too badly trained and led.  There was a time when the NY Blue counted themselves clever if they could coop – sleep in their cars – but that era is long past.  The city has great police leadership and has had it for many years.

 

When I lived in NYC during the 70’s and 80’s, there was an undercover cop

whose beat was the as yet undeveloped block of 42nd Street between 8th Avenue and Times Square.  The entire block was inhabited by slum scum, often from the South Bronx, most of them criminal types.  This one cop became a newspaper hero for working that block and putting away large numbers of wanted thugs.  He was on the front page of the Post and The Daily News many times.  Then he got murdered right there in the street.   

 

When I arrived at Irene’s place later, she and I had a wonderful reunion.  I had two quality gifts for her, one of them the weed I had brought with me, with the miraculous help of Homeland Security – she conserved – making sparing use – of this single large bud during my entire visit.  My other gift was a large square bed covering of patterned yellow-colored Indian or Nepalese, soft and not poisoned by chemicals.  Irene loved it.

 

The next day, Saturday, my son James and I had scheduled ourselves to meet at 11:00 AM at Penn Station.  I had to make several connections and they were all squeaky tight.

I walked into the railroad station with one minute to spare.

 

My son came into New York that morning on the train from where he lives at the end of Long Island.  He would be coming on the Ronkokoma Train, arriving at 11:00 a.m.  He said we’d meet under the sign for Ronkokoma Arrivals.

 

I was feeling good, not only about seeing my son for the first time in four years, but also because he and I had made precise arrangements, marching in tune, playing team ball.

 

There I was at 11:00 a.m., standing under the sign for Ronkokoma Departures – not Ronkokoma Arrivals as he had specified!

 

So I had to find out what was going on.  Fortunately there was someone who gave me the vibe undercover cop – probably an NYPD undercover detective — standing right next to me.  I didn’t see his face but he was an elite member of the security forces, dressed in expensive, cutting edge undercover cop clothes from head to toe.

 

The NYPD has a problem when it comes to its incognito missions.  Undercover cop work, especially if you’re elite, is among the toughest and most dangerous work in the world.  This guy looked tough enough.

 

9/11 made the NYPD think that the feds were dangerously stupid and un-coordinated.  The NYPD had a lot of contempt for the feds.  For instance, an Arizona FBI field officer sent a message to headquarters months before 9/11 saying that there were a lot civilian flight school training on passenger airliners on the part of Muslims originating from Saudi Arabia – this message was never answered and perhaps never even looked at.

 

So of 10,000 NYC police, 1,000 of them are assigned to anti-terrorism, and these

cops travel outside the U.S. when they need to.  New York City takes its own responsibility to prevent terrorism, and by doing things that way, New York has been successful.  And NYC could recruit its overseas operatives more effectively than the CIA could do its own recruiting.  That’s because New York can pick and choose among many native speakers of, let’s say, Farsi; whereas the CIA is notoriously bad at recruiting native speakers from the American population.  Not only that, but the CIA agents themselves are ridiculous in their inability to personally speak Arabic and Farsi and thus are totally dependent on people they hire, who are fairly free to double and triple agent themselves.

 

Consider this:  the next time there is a 9/11 type event, it might be a hydrogen bomb.  I am certain you know, respected reader, that there are some enemies of the United States who would, if they could, kill all Americans.

 

This fellow standing next to me seemed like he could be one of the NYPD elite undercover cops fighting terrorism.  I didn’t look at him in the eyes, not wanting him to think I was either a member of the Police Force myself, nor did I want him to think that I, a total stranger, was in any way challenging him or expecting anything – I had a quite simple question to ask is all. 

 

I said to him, more like to his side, not really looking at him, “I hope you will help me. I’m meeting my son at the Ronkokoma Arrivals sign, but this sign says Departures”.  

 

The elite undercover cop said, “Dad, have you forgotten what I look like?”

 

I erupted in laughter and said, “No, I haven’t forgotten.  I thought you were an undercover cop – I wasn’t looking at your face”.

 

I hugged him and laughed some more.  What a way to meet for the first time since 2009!  A new family legend had just been born.  He thought it was pretty funny too, without fully understanding my reference to the police.

 

He has always had an aura of nobility, but now he was particularly strong and handsome.  I told him how great he looked, and that I hadn’t ever seen him dressed so well.

 

First thing we did was to go by subway to Ground Zero.  We got a close-up look at the new FreedomTower, 1,776 tall, not officially opening until next year.  It is the tallest building in North America, and is in every way admirable. 

 

We didn’t want to join the lines of tourists standing in unmoving lines to go down into the new park that memorialized the Twin Towers. I’ll do that another time.

 

We headed over to the TrinityChurch at Broadway and Wall Street.  We read some of the centuries-old tombstones (One of them a Livingston from the Hudson RiverValley, near where I used to live in the Catskills).  We noted that Alexander Hamilton is being brought back to life, although I’m speaking here only of Hamilton’s final resting place, his mausoleum in the church yard.  The mausoleum is being rebuilt. 

 

Hamilton was great at helping to lead the American Revolution and serving George Washington as one of his most important military aides.  Yet once the Revolution was won, Hamilton started a gradual and steady slide downwards in his personal life.

 

When he and Thomas Jefferson both served Washington during his first term as president, the two of them would both sit with Washington, one on either side, and endlessly quarrel.  Jefferson and Hamilton basically were the forebears of America’s two present-day political parties.

 

Finally, Hamilton’s life culminated in his being killed by Aaron Burr in a duel to the death over on the Jersey side of the Hudson, up on Weehawken Heights, on July 11, 1804.  Hamilton had made the mistake of insulting Burr in the worst imaginable way, winding up dead for doing so, and effectively ending not only his own life but Burr’s usefulness to America.  Burr had been almost as much a Revolutionary hero as Hamilton had been, but Burr had two great American generals he worked for in addition to the limited amount of work he had done for George Washington.  Hamilton had only worked for General Washington.

 

Hamilton had always resented and vied with Burr, using name-calling and anger.  Burr never behaved that way.  Burr had never wanted to duel Hamilton but Hamilton gave him little choice.  Hamilton’s primary problem all his life was his origin as a bastard.  (A little soapbox here:  hey people, listen up:  don’t go scattering your rosebuds while you may, if it means you’re creating bastards – if you do you are a bastard yourself.)

 

James had gone down to TrinityChurch from his prep school, Trinity Prep, when he was a student there, on a day trip, since the school and the church were connected.  Before the prep school had been built on the Upper West Side, it had been located at the church. 

 

Trinity Prep and the TrinityChurch were Episcopalian — and there were many more Episcopalian churches in Manhattan, including the great New York-built Cathedral of St. John the Divine near ColumbiaUniversity on the Upper West Side – it was a near-miracle that New York could duplicate the way medieval cathedrals had been built in Europe. 

 

I was Episcopalian when I was a kid in Alexandria, Virginia – my brother Howard and I were choirboys in Christ Church, Alexandria, George Washington’s church, and Robert E. Lee’s as well.  I sat in their pews on occasion, but mostly was up in the balcony area when singing in the choir.

 

While my son and I were looking around Trinity Church, he stayed outside while I went in to look around — it’s pretty inside there with sunshine streaming through the many stained glass windows. 

 

George Washington had spent many years going to Sunday services right there, all the years he lived in New York through his two terms as America’s founding president.

 

So then James and I went down Wall Street, heading for Fraunces Tavern where Washington said his farewell address to his officers at the end of the Revolutionary War.  Within a short block from Trinity Church there was Washington himself, a towering statue twice life size, standing above the intersection of Wall and Broad, looking out over the New York Stock Exchange, his back to the marbled building called Federal Hall where he served his two terms as our president.

 

I broke out my new digital camera and starting taking pix.  Federal Hall, at 26 Wall Street, was our nation’s capitol building during GW’s presidency and was also the site of his inauguration on April 30, 1789.  On that occasion he had delivered a prayerful inaugural speech, known since as his prayer rather than as his first inaugural address.  Here it is:

“Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations and whose providential aide can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes; and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge.

In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States.

Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which them past seem to presage.

These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me I trust in thinking, that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free Government can more auspiciously commence.

We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered as deeply, perhaps finally, staked of the experiment…

I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the Benign Parent of the Human Race, in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquility, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessings may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.”

While being at that site, my son and I noted the nearby colossal NY Stock Exchange Building, with its great bas relief sculptural art above huge classical columns.

 

We went further down toward Battery Park to have lunch at Fraunces Tavern, at 54 Pearl   Street.  It is NYC’s oldest surviving building, and there are many preserved colonial-era houses all over that neighborhood.

 

On Nov 25, 1783, Washington and his officers gathered in the Tavern to celebrate that they had won a victory over the British, kicking them out of New York City.  After they had been forced to quit New York, the British forces went down South to continue fighting the war in the Carolinas.

 

American Colonel Benjamin Talmadge, the man General Washington used to head up his secret service, wrote down what happened:  After filling his glass with wine, Washington said:

 

“With a heart full of love and gratitude I now take leave of you.  I must devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.  I will feel obliged if each of you will come up and take me by the hand”.

 

Along with the good food and drink, the present-day Fraunces Tavern restaurant afforded us plenty of room at our table to spread out.  I had brought a lot of possessions to show James, to give him the option of taking them home.  I also had a short list of matters to discuss.

 

I was extraordinarily happy to be with him and wanted the two of us to optimize our time together. My son and I were well tuned in to one another and he didn’t mind any of the agenda items. 

 

The most important thing I had to say was that I felt the greatest single aspect of my life had been being a father, and I fervently hoped he would know the feeling of fatherhood during his life.

 

I also told him I intended to return to see him at least once a year from now on.  He replied I had told him I would do that back in 2009, and I apologized I hadn’t been able to do it, and failed to communicate as thoroughly as I should have.

 

I mentioned I wanted to revive my friendship with his mother Angela and with her mother in England.

 

We spoke about his career as a lawyer for SuffolkCounty, where he lives.  I told him how proud I am of him for working to build his exemplary life.  He has devoted many years to working for the County.  I suggested that once he was done working for the County, he would have a wide spectrum of life choices in front of him.  He might go to work, staying within the legal profession, to defend NYC against terrorism.  He could perhaps deal with the feds to keep The Big Apple from getting worm-eaten – he could keep the feds from interfering with NY’s protecting itself from terrorism. 

 

(When he was a kid he lived two doors down from the FBI’s NY building which was at the corner of 3rd   Avenue and 69th St.  One time a couple of FBI agents shot two guys to death on the sidewalk.)

 

We spoke about my career as a writer, which is just getting under way.  I have written 250,000 words — maybe seven or eight hundred book pages.  But as yet there is not enough editing, nor is there any publisher with solid interest. 

 

Hey dear reader, please consider this to be an opportunity.

 

As a matter of course I copy James with what I write, including most of the emails I send – I believe my emails may have usefulness in providing additional written material for my book, once I am succeeding and my readers want my whole body of work.  James responded with a surprise – he assured me he reads everything I send him.  I never thought James read it all – there is a lot of it.  James gave evidence that he did indeed read everything by saying I had amazed him by the vehemence with which I complained about my father’s temper.

 

On that subject, my dad did have a strong temper during all the years I knew him.  And my dad suffered from it.  Every time he came home from sea duty and the first thing he heard from mom was that I hadn’t minded her to her liking, then he had me assume the position and with spanking paddles he had obtained from his ship carpenters, he whaled on me – and on my older brother Howard too.  Every single time dad behaved that way with me, I let him know with all my strength that he was a jerk to beat up on a little kid, and particularly his own son.  What I wanted him to do instead was to help mom become a better manager and to explain to me in a reasoned way why I should improve my behavior.  I didn’t in my early days have the chops to talk to my dad in that way, but soon, by the time I was thirteen or so, I did, and thus began during that era became a more useful son.

 

Back to the subject of my son reading what I write.  A lot of what I write in my emails to friends, especial Kirk Bowman, is inane and silly —  yet may still have some value, kind of like Monte Python and other English comedians over the years…Peter Sellers and his Goon Squad, for example.  Or consider SNL, and the phenomenal Jimmy Fallon, where there is often silliness, even chaos.

 

James has done a tremendous amount of creative writing in his spare time.  His focus has been creating comics and super heroes.  For several years he was the leader of a widespread community that had the same interests, and for three years he was paid to go to Comic Con in San Diego – those were the years of 2007-2009, when we’d spend several days together every year.  A couple of times we went to the UniversalCity amusement park, and we visited friends in Baja California, and Las Vegas and Utah.

 

I know I have always copied him with all my emails, most of his copies go to him blind – what I didn’t know is that he reads everything.  My reaction is to take more time in writing emails to try and make my funny stuff really funny rather than just plain silly.

 

After lunch we went over to Battery Park to see Gen. Washington’s departure site on the shore of NY harbor, where Washington had a waiting vessel to take him across the Hudson River, once he and his officers took their leave that day at Frances Tavern.  We also saw the huge garden that has taken over part of Battery Park

 

Then James and I went a nearby quay to view the Statue of Liberty.  What we were seeing from the Battery – the Statue – was beautiful under the sunny sky, and seemed remarkably near.  James offered to go with me by tourist boat to visit the Statue, but it would have taken three hours.  I will save my visit to the Statue for another trip.

 

We got on the subway to Times Square.  James bought me a wheeled suitcase. That made things easier – why I hadn’t brought one who knows.

 

He had been generous with me all day – picking up the tab at the Fraunces Tavern (had to be $40-50).  Last time we had spent time together, in the summer of 2009, James picked up our Las Vegas expenses out of his considerable winnings on the slots.

 

From Times Square, I walked with James back to Penn Station where he caught the train home.  Before taking our leave of one another, we had another laugh about the strange way we met that morning under the Ronkokoma sign.

 

I had such a good visit with him that day, I am smiling right now thinking about it.  And all I have to do to smile is to think of him anytime, he is such a swell person.

 

That was Saturday.  The next day, Sunday, Irene and I went to the beautiful little church less than a block from her home on Roosevelt Island.  We then visited the SeniorCenter where Irene works.  We had a meal and met some of her many friends.

 

That evening, I joined a Bible Study group, and took my turn at ministering.  It was the first ever time in my life.

 

The next morning, Monday, I got up in the dark to commence that day’s journey to Maryland.

 

Moving steadily through the long process, I clasped my older brother Howard to my chest about six hours later.

 

Howard has got a hell of a case of Alzheimer’s.  He says something and then immediately has no idea whatever what he has said.  He makes a decision, makes an agreement, or has a thought, and then does not know what he has decided, agreed to, or thought.

 

Yet he remembers everything in his past.  We enjoy talking about the past.  He and I had ten or fifteen years of close friendship when we were young, with lots of adventures and laughs.

 

We were feeling strong emotions.  We sojourned in his back yard which doubles as a nature preserve, and includes a marsh.  Howard keeps a salt lick for white tail deer that live in the woods – he has seen as many as five at a time.  And he keeps track of the many birds, some of which are water birds, and some song birds, and loons.  An egret visited his back yard, and Howard knew what species it was.  Then a crane flew in, and Howard knew that one too.  A tree fell in the woods. (That sounds like a poem’s first lines:  “A tree fell in the woods…”).

 

That was at the end of September, and now in mid-December Howard and I have talked on the phone several times.

 

I am helping him to make a habit of taking notes.  I urge him to keep a clipboard at hand and plenty of paper and pencils.   I constantly encourage him to write everything down, so that note-taking can serve as memory. 

 

I learned about constant note-taking thanks to my own poor but not as yet demented memory.

 

I would very much like to suggest to you, dear reader, that you adopt constant note-taking in your life, and spread the idea around to your family members and friends.  I assure you I am writing from notes right now.

 

My brother still has the keen wit he has always had.  I ask him to write down his witticisms but so far he’s not done it.

 

I told him I would be coming at least once a year to see him.  Next time I’ll stay overnight in Washington, and tour around – it is my primary home town.

 

Next Eastern trip will be longer, and earlier in the year.  I have to re-double my efforts to become a published writer, primarily so I can pay for my future travel, and then re-double them again.

 

One way or another, trips from now on will include Dayton to see my kid brother Chris and his wife and daughter.

 

I am also urging Howard and his wife Diane to start going to church and I’m asking Howard and Chris to stay in close touch.

 

And I am asking Chris to befriend Howard’s wife Diane as I am doing.  Neither Chris nor I have ever been friends with Diane, nor has Diane wanted it.  But it’s not too late, and Diane is beginning to see the light.

 

Dad told us three brothers to stay close before he passed on in 1985.  I have mom and pop’s pictures near me, and I imagine Howard and Chris do as well.

 

The next three days in NYC, Tuesday thru Thursday, were filled with tourism and learning.

 

The final two days, Friday and Saturday, I went up to the Catskills to visit where I lived in the 80’s and from which I moved across the country to California.  Then Sunday I flew home to California.

 

Tuesday, being in a George Washington mood, I went to WashingtonSquarePark to explore and find out what I could.  When I lived in NY during the 70’s and 80’s, this park was definitely part of my stomping grounds.

 

Back in early days of my NY life, the beginning of the 70’s, I was an avid volleyball player.  I would take my son with me and we’d head over to Sheep Meadow in Central Park.

 

On a business trip to Ft. Lauderdale, I served 21 straight points on the beach.

 

Once the volleyball in Sheep Meadow was shut down by the Commissioner of Public Parks, some of we players joined the Washington Square game.  One night I didn’t go home (39th St.) and spent the entire night in the Square — I recall the eerie feeling of being there in the earliest hours of the day.  Another of the volleyball players was also there, and he told me his dad in the Dominican Republic had been shot by the Dominican dictator Trujillo, because his dad had been a rival for the leadership in that country.  I was shocked and empathetic.  He was a real good v’ball player.  Me? Not so much, sort of like when I played prep school and college sports – all junior varsity and club level….but full of team spirit. 

 

I’m still up for athletics – come visit me in Santa Monica.

 

One time a girl was standing alongside the volleyball game in Washington Square and I left the game to get acquainted with her.  It turned out she was a chorus dancer on Broadway.

 

Another time James and I went down to the Square and played chess together.  At the time he was maybe 10 or 12.  We weren’t at the concrete chess and checker tables in the park but rather we went to a coffee house featuring chess playing down towards Little Italy.  We learned something about playing the game by playing together, and when he was a grown man and I was traveling overseas, I bought him a carved stone chess set in Kathmandu and mailed it to him once I got to Calcutta.  Since that hand-carved chess set was shipped on a slow boat, it took nine months to arrive.  He received it while he was living on 69th Street, close to 3rd Avenue.  There was a school nearby with a basketball court where James and I would hoop it up, every so often. 

 

Lauren Bacall had gone to school there up to the time she was 17 and met Humphrey Bogart.  Now Bacall lives in the Dakota across Central Park.  Another star who lived near James was Joan Crawford, who lived out her life as the wife of Pepsi Cola Corp’s chairman, on the top floor of the apartment building that took up the whole block bounded by 3rd Ave., Lexington, and 69th and 70th streets.

 

James spent three years or so working as a child actor, making TV commercials.  The industry liked him a lot.  He got many jobs.  The camera loved his face and the public loved his face too, and his personality.  He made $50,000, that’s back in the early 70’s.

 

That Tuesday in September this year I’m telling you about, the day after I got back from seeing my brother and his wife in Maryland, the first thing I noticed in Washington Square Park was the big marble victory arch on the north side of the park, exactly in the middle of the block facing the southern terminus of Fifth Avenue.

 

The two columns of the arch are both decorated with monumental bas relief sculptures, on the east side depicting Washington as a military leader and on the west as a political leader.

 

I kept looking around and talking with people and found that there were no longer any volleyball games.

 

I almost always find history interesting.  When the Washington Square land was first acquired by NYC back in 1797, it was used as common burial ground (Potter’s Field) and for public executions – there is still a tree in the south west corner of the Park known as The Hangman’s Elm.  20,000 corpses are said to be still buried under the Square, victims of a plague.

 

Here are some additional facts about George Washington before I leave him:

 

When he was serving his second presidential term, Washington had cancer in one of thighs, and surgeons successfully cut it out.

 

Washington had an addiction to eating ice cream.  At times he made ice cream an item in his household budgets and one year there was an entry for $5,000 dollars.  That could help explain the deplorable condition of his teeth.  Naturally, the ice cream at Mt. Vernon was consumed by the many guests who stopped by in a continuous stream, and whom Washington received with hospitality, even though many of them just dropped in.

 

When he was sixteen, Washington was packed up and ready to board a sailing vessel to join his older brother Lawrence in the Caribbean, where he was establishing himself as a grower and shipper of goods.  His mother Mary came to the quay where he was preparing to sail away and she told him to bring his luggage and come home, she did not want to lose his services in her household.  And he did what his mom asked.  All the remainder of her life, his mom was a pain in his neck.  Even when he was the Commander of the American Revolutionary Army, his mom complained that he neglected her.

 

When Washington was fighting in the French and Indian War during the 1750’s, the Battle of the Monangahela, near present day Pittsburgh, came very close to costing his life.  Two horses were shot out from under him, and his clothing showed four bullet holes.  After that lost battle, Washington made his way back to Virginia, once falling into the freezing river.  When Washington was leading the American Forces in the Battle of Kipps Bay, near the present-day United Nations, the Americans were retreating before the British advance.  Washington lagged behind to defend the rear of his troops, and engaged himself in fighting the British single-handedly until his staff officers forced him to retreat northwards.  When Washington’s forces fought at Princeton after the Battle of Trenton, Washington got out into the front of his soldiers and the British concentrated their fire upon him, from both rifles and cannon.  At the Battle of Yorktown, Washington stayed in the front ranks and the British again targeted him with their muskets and cannons.  A cannon ball exploded right over his head.  Throughout his military career, he had thousands of arrows, bullets, swords, and cannon balls directed at him. At no time did Washington ever receive a wound. 

 

Some people believe that Washington was mystically protected – I am one of those.

 

On that Tuesday after I was in Washington Square, I made my way east to where the Cooper Union Building stands today, right across the street from Astor Square.  I was now turning towards Abraham Lincoln.

 

I am now and have always been interested in history, and my favorite historical figures are Washington and Lincoln, so this September trip had me in a bright sunny field of clover.

 

On February 27, 1860, Lincoln spoke at the then-new Cooper Union Building to introduce himself to New York.  There was a great hall in the building where he spoke to a full house of about 850 people.  During Zachary Taylor’s campaign for the presidency a few years before, Lincoln had gone through New York on his way to Worchester, Massachusetts.  Up in Massachusetts, he spoke on behalf of the Whig Party in favor of General Taylor’s candidacy, even though Taylor was a slave owner.

 

But Lincoln had never campaigned in New York, and he needed to make an impression on New Yorkers as he prepared to run for president.  There were several reasons.  For one, his most important rival for the Republican nomination for president was a New Yorker, Seward. 

That day he spoke at Cooper Union, Lincoln made a carefully reasoned argument supporting the federal government’s right to restrict slavery in the western territories.  He said the nation’s founders considered slavery an evil not to be extended but to be tolerated where it already existed.

 

He told Republicans they were the true conservatives, because they upheld the original principle of the founders.  Southerners were the extremists who sought to undo what Washington had done.  He said Republicans were not sectionalists.  He counseled Republicans to leave the South alone while working to confine slavery.  “We must not only let them alone, but we must convince them that we do leave them alone.”  Lincoln was taking his best shot at averting civil war.

 

Lincoln then spoke directly to the South.  He told them they were running roughshod over great numbers of innocent people, their slaves.  What they need to do was apply their intelligence to the problem of slavery, and he was sure they knew it.  He said they never seemed to care or to have any feelings about the suffering they caused.  The now seemed to want only to separate from the North.  He said, “That is cool.

 

Yes dear reader, I know full well that this seems unlikely, but those indeed were his words: “That is cool”.

 

Of course he meant cool in the sense of near cold.  But perhaps high school teachers of the present day will pick up on this and begin to teach their kids about Lincoln, using those words.

 

At the end of his Cooper Union Address, Lincoln said:

 

“Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

 

When I went into the Cooper Union Building and spoke to the fellow on duty at the information and security desk, I was surprised to find that the Great Hall still existed and is still in use.  In fact it was being used at that moment by a tour group composed of United Nations officials.  The U.N. was opening its fall General Assembly and many high ranking government officials were in town.  The fellow said he couldn’t let me go downstairs to the Great Hall, but he encouraged me to look around the rest of building upstairs.

 

I found that the Cooper Union is a college of art, design, engineering, and architecture.  The old building was now supplemented by a new structure across 4th Avenue that towers above the neighborhood.  The entire old building contains graduate studies programs, and many faculty offices.  No one minded my thorough investigation, and when I returned to the ground floor to report my findings to the same fellow with whom I had initially spoke, he now said he wanted me to go down to the Great Hall, but to leave the UN officials alone.

 

After I left my Lincoln studies, I went back uptown by way of Times Square and found that almost all of it was filled with great TV screens, building-size, and vast amounts of the sounds of opera.  The NY Metropolitain Opera was opening its season that day, and the production going on in Lincoln Center at that very time was being telecast in Times Square.  It was an opera by Tchaikovsky, “Eugene Onegin”.  This opera does a great job of alternating exciting crowd scenes with one on one heart-pounding romantic scenes.

 

Aside:   Lincoln is everywhere!  What’s the name of the street I live on in Santa Monica?  Lincoln Blvd!  What’s the name of the transcontinental highway that begins just down the block from where I live?  The Lincoln Highway!

 

Times Square had about 1,200 folding chairs for the free event, and I was comfortably seated in one of them and totally immersed in the experience for at least an hour. 

 

New York, New York?   You are the greatest city for all kinds of reasons!

 

Aside: I was talking with my kid brother Chris about this event and he reminded me that every night our dad would sit in the living room in his easy chair, reading and listening to classical music on the radio.  We heard Tchaikovsky back then, all the time.

 

Before returning to Irene, I shopped for lots of delicious deli take out – Irene always treats me with such splendid sweetness, I do whatever I can for her.

 

The next day I went over to Brooklyn.  I was going to be there in a couple of days to join a friend in traveling from Brooklyn to the Catskills and I wanted to familiarize myself with how to get there.  My purpose was also to put my eyes on the new basketball arena, Barclay’s Center, specially constructed for the Brooklyn Nets NBA team.  I knew I’d be watching Lakers games during the coming season, and there would be lots of chances to watch the Brooklyn Nets.  It was sure to be better TV viewing if I had been to the venue.  I would also keep my eyes open for a particular church once I was in Brooklyn, Henry Ward Beechers’ Plymouth Church, which was known as the Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad during slavery, and as much a center of abolition as any church further north.  (I have just seen “Twenty Years A Slave” at a movie theatre – please see the movie yourself, dear reader).

 

There was a lot on my plate.  I had lost all familiarity with riding the subway since I had lived in NYC during the 70’s and 80’s.  I carried a subway map with me everywhere.  A miracle happened and equally a miracle, I fell in love.

 

I was at the station at West 4th street to transfer to the train to Brooklyn, and while waiting on the platform, I lost my bag, which had plenty of irreplaceable materials in it.  There was a group of young hoodlums, boys and girls, and they were eyeing me.  I had set the bag down, and when my attention wavered for the moment, they snatched it.

 

My train was coming into the station, and I couldn’t find my bag – they had evidently found nothing of interest in my bag and put it back down in a different place.  I was frantic – I extended my search in a circular search pattern, and then all of a sudden there it was.  That’s the miracle.  Sincere thanks to you, Universe (My commonest appellation for God).

 

I got the train and it went under the East River into Brooklyn, but I didn’t have much idea how to find the new basketball stadium, so I asked someone standing near me.  That person didn’t know how to advise me, but another person had been standing right there and took over, telling me what to do.  I looked at her and like the French say, I was hit by a bolt of lightning.  The person helping me was a woman whose face looked like gold.  Her skin literally was the color of gold.  She emanated an aura of perfect beauty.  I recognized that her golden face meant she was a Chinese American, so many of whom I had seen since arriving in New York.  When she had told me where to go, using my map to show me, I said to her she would do well at Harvard Law School, and she smiled and said, she had done that.  Then I added she would enjoy Stanford too.  She kept smiling into my eyes as she said that’s where she was from.

 

That was it.  The train was coming into my station and I moved out. I guess she was about 28 years old.  She changed my life forever as to how I see Chinese people.

 

I had a couple of blocks left to walk to Barclay’s Center and found myself surrounded by people walking there too.  I asked them if the arena was named after Charles Barclay and they said no, there’s a big global bank, Barclay’s.

 

I was critical of the puny amount of space outside the arena.  At the entrance there was a good sized plaza, but that was just at one end.  The rest of the outside is hemmed in by busy roads.

 

Lionel Richie was performing that evening and I found out the cheapest seats were in the $40’s.  That doesn’t seem too much, but as much as I like Lionel Ritchie, I kept my money in my pocket and headed home to Roosevelt Island, stopping on the way to stock up on more food for Irene and myself.

 

I’m writing this on February 14, 2014, and Barclay’s Center is in the news because Pussy Riot had an Amnesty International Concert there on February 5th.  Madonna was the leader of the event and served as the m.c.  She made a speech, introducing some of the Pussy Riot members.  Debbie Harry sang “Call Me” and “One Way or Another”, Lauryn Hill sang, Yoko Ono Sang.  The concert went on for four hours.

 

Pussy Riot is a punk rock collective of eleven members.

 

Two of the Pussy Riot girls appeared on Stephen Colbert’s show last night and said they had been visiting American jails.  They said there were people in American jails just as there were in Russian jails, people who were only guilty of speaking up, acting up, and singing for basic human rights.  They said they wanted Putin to step down, giving up his dictatorial power, and they were happy to go back to jail, either here or there.  The girls were called Masha and Nadya.  Colbert was a little nonplussed.  I think Pussy Riot was a little too radical for him to feel comfortable.  He was better in joking around about having been in the White House the night before for Pres. Obama’s State Dinner for the Russian President, where he had sat next to the French President Hollande, who did nopt have a lady by his side.  That’s where Colbert sat, by Hollande’s side – now on his show he joked that he was the First lady of France.

 

Colbert was cool when he asked the Pussy Riot girls why they called themselves by English words, even when they were in Russia.  They said they wanted English speaking people to have fun too.  Colbert asked if there were Russian words for the first word of their name.  The girls said there was a whole bunch of Russian words meaning the same thing.

 

It seems to me that Pussy Riot is brilliant in their method of protest and wonderfully effective.  There used to be lots of Heroes of the Soviet State.  Russia sure has its heroes today.

 

The next day, Wednesday, September 25th, I went back downtown, intent on seeing Teddy Roosevelt’s boyhood home on 22nd Street near Madison.  My National Park Service Senior Pass got me inside.  The building was decked out as a two-story museum, well designed with wonderful displays, and the information desk officer was on the ball.  I had always wondered about the day back in 1884, February 14th of that year, in fact (It is February 14th today!) when T.R. lost his wife and his mother in the same day.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

This One’s For You

26 Aug

This is for you, my reader.

I am going to write a fresh chapter without regards to what I have already done.  It can all be conformed later.

I’m playing John Denver’s greatest hits, loud.  It’s Sunday.  I’m drinking High Sierras mountain water with a splash of VS brandy.

Sunday mornings I join my food banking community from around 5:00 a.m. to  around 7:30, and then, numbered ticket in hand, back to the church for the food distribution at 2:00 p.m.

At 5:00 Victor, Joshua and I join forces like we do every week.  We stand outside and have a b.s. session.  This morning I started listening better to the other two, and as a result had an insight, which I will share with you (I didn’t mention it to them).

Political events happen due to the power wielded at the top, sometimes by a single person.  That’s a truism, right?  No insight there.  Here’s the insight:  The Republicans are controlled by a single person, and that’s W, the worst president in America’s entire life-span — and there have been some stinkers with four presidential elections stolen, one of the W’s first.  W has no regard for the truth, and his henchmen likewise.

Here “Leaving on a Jet Plane”.  John sings “Oh babe, I hate to go”.  Poor John had one wife and then another, both of whom broke his heart, and that’s how and why he died.

I always have music when I’m writing.  This is the first time I’ve had alcohol.  I’ve got constant inspiration from you.  You are my muse.  Music is too, in a way, and you are a real person, whom I use.  Look at how close those three words are, muse, music, and use.

John’s singin’ “…Sunshine makes me happy, sunshine on the water makes me cry, sunshine almost always makes me high.”  You and I have that, just being together here.

Make sure and sing, smile, laugh, and love.

I was five years old and my Navy dad and some of his shipmates, with their wives had a gathering on the beach in Coronado, just after the end of the Pacific war where they had been in harm’s way.  I was off on my own behind a little sand dune, laying back, looking at the blue sky, listening to them sing “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain”.  I had a couple of 5c Cokes.  A happy memory.

I the next winter I it was Christmas in my mom’s hometown on the Mississippi River in Iowa.  I was in the second grade class in the school as a guest, and we children sang “Jesus Loves Me” and “Away in a Manger”, while big fat snowflakes drifted down past the windows.  Another happy-making recollection.

Keep those kinds of things in your brain and visit them from time to time.  Your entire life can be happiness.  Train yourself.  Make use of yourself in a way that happiness results.

My dad was working in the Bureau of Naval Personnel around 1953.  One of his jobs was to determine who in the Navy would get decorations.  Rep. John Fitzgerald Kennedy visited him and said he would appreciate it if his decoration for valor when he was skipper of P.T. 109 could be upgraded to a Navy Cross (the highest Navy decoration).  He told pop he was headed for the presidency.  My father turned him down.  No matter how much charisma Kennedy may have had, he didn’t light up my dad.

Who killed Kennedy?  JFK Jr. went to his death believing it was LBJ.  I don’t think so.  It was the Mafia, The Kennedy brothers had conducted effective and ongoing political warfare on the Mafia, and they did their thing.  The Chicago boss.  The same dude who snuffed Marilyn Monroe. He killed Monroe in August and Kennedy in November.  And the two killings were linked.

Train yourself to remember your dreams.  Once you wake up, make notes.

The new religion “The Way of Being” does not offer any metaphysical claims.  It may not even be a religion.  Still and all, it does offer the best chance to have eternal life.  And thefrefore I call it a religion.  But you, reader, feel free not to call it a religion, and to change its name.  It could be Being, To Be, The Way (used by Lao Tze’s religion), or whatever you wish.  There are many years and centuries to come to an agreement.

God has a thousand names.  This new religion may as well.

Yeah, it answers the problem of death, with logic and as said, without any metaphysics,  and without any requirement on your part to have faith.

It keeps John Lennon alive.  We can end war.  It ain’t gonna happen for a while, but we can do it.

What we need right now is unity, at the level of humanity.

As things go forward, they get more complex, and they expand.  These are physical principles.  Just as the universe expands.

Just because someone, anyone, says something, you do not have to believe them.  Me too, you don’t have to believe me.  Even authorities.  If an authority says there are multiple universes, you don’t have to believe him (or her).  In fact there is but one universe.

That’s my most usual name for god, the universe.  If you are talking about god as a concept, you don’t have to capitalize it.  But if you are talking about God as a real being (albeit spiritual), then by all means give mother father God all due respect.

Talk to God and pray to God.  Remember others when you do.  Keep others in prayer.  If you bow down to pray remember you are getting exercise when you do.

Remember the heroes.  The one-armed soul surfer, the Hamilton girl.  America’s soldiers.  America’s firemen.  The men at the top may be conducting lousy stinking wars, but the people doing the fighting can still be heroes.

Dream first then bring your dream to fruition.  If you are an artist, dream your painting then paint your dream.  Dream your life then live your dream.

Image

jimwithsuit

24 Feb

jimwithsuit

Hello world!

24 Feb

Welcome to WordPress.com. After you read this, you should delete and write your own post, with a new title above. Or hit Add New on the left (of the admin dashboard) to start a fresh post.

Here are some suggestions for your first post.

  1. You can find new ideas for what to blog about by reading the Daily Post.
  2. Add PressThis to your browser. It creates a new blog post for you about any interesting  page you read on the web.
  3. Make some changes to this page, and then hit preview on the right. You can always preview any post or edit it before you share it to the world.