October 1st, 2017
Jules suggested going on a very minor excursion. We had spent the two previous days running full throttle through Manhattan and Queens, and Jules thought we could do something at half-speed. Karin and I liked the idea.
Jules took us to the Palisades Interstate Park along the Hudson River. The park is a thin sliver of land at the water’s edge. It follows the cliffs on the New Jersey side of the river for miles and miles. Jules explained to us the origins of the park. Apparently, at the beginning of the 20th century, people were mining the stone on the Palisades. The rich folk on the other side of the river resented the fact that their scenic view was being demolished. Through the efforts of early environmental activists, and a healthy influx of old money, the land of the Jersey side was eventually all bought up, and the mining operations were banned. A win for everyone involved, including future generations.
From the top of the Palisades a person can see for miles. From our perch we could look south and see Yonkers, and maybe the northern edge of the Bronx. If we looked to our left, in a northerly direction, we could see the Tappan Zee Bridge in the distance. The water is brown and murky. The river is very broad and slow-moving. If we looked straight down, we could see the tiny images of boats on the stream. Jules joked that he had told the kayakers far below to launch just for us to see them.
Karin and I kept following the Hudson River north. We drove into New York State from Bergen County, and we followed 9W north along the west bank of the river. We saw signs for West Point.
Karin asked me, “I guess you aren’t planning to stop to visit West Point?”
“Uh, no”, I replied, and I just kept driving north.
West Point really is a scenic location, full of history and tradition. However, for me, it would be like returning to prison. No, that story is done. I’m not going back to reminisce.
After visiting the Peter Maurin Farm and staying overnight at Boughton Place, Karin and I drove into Highland to find breakfast stop. We initially parked next to a restaurant/bar that looked to be open. It wasn’t. There were just some people cleaning up in there.
An old Italian guy came out to talk with us. He had that Joe Pesci look. The man pointed down the street and said,
“You see that place over there? They serve breakfast. They’re Mexicans, but they are good people. I wouldn’t steer you wrong. Really. They are good people, and the food is good there. I wouldn’t steer you wrong.”
Okay. We went to the El Paso restaurant and had breakfast. The old guy was right. The people were nice and the food was excellent. Before we left, Karin bought some Mexican snacks for the road. Got to have snacks.
After that, we stopped at the Rail Trail, a former railway line that is now a foot and bicycle path across the Hudson. The Rail Trail connects Highland, on the west side of the river, to Poughkeepsie, on the eastern shore. There is a gorgeous view from that bridge. Karin marveled at the wake of a barge heading north on the river. The mountains on either side of the river are densely wooded. There was still morning fog in the distance as we stood on the bridge.
Karin and I crossed the Mid-Hudson Bridge (and paid a toll) to get to eastern side of the river. Karin wanted to drive north to Rhinebeck, the home of the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival. We were actually three weeks early for the festival, but at least Karin could tell her fiber friends that she had been in Rhinebeck.
Rhinebeck is a village with downtown that extends for two or three blocks. It has a touristy feel to it. There are a variety of restaurants, shops, and boutiques. With the exceptions of Stickles Variety Store and the CVS pharmacy, there are no stores that sell things that people need. Karin and I stopped in Stickles. Oddly enough, Karin found “The Yarn Garage”, a yarn shop tucked into the back of the store. I not sure how she finds these places. The lady running the shop was originally from Düsseldorf, so she and Karin could talk about knitting in German. Obviously, Karin made a purchase there.
Eventually, Karin and I found ourselves in a pricey shop where they sold free trade fabrics and hand made soaps. Women sniffed bottles of essential oils while their husbands wondered if there are any bars open yet. There were many items from many countries suitable for decorating an already over-filled American home. It was a store for people who had both time and money to burn.
I found myself conversing with the girl working in the shop. She had dark hair and large, black-rimmed glasses. A nose ring sparkled in her left nostril. She had a serious, thoughtful expression on her face.
I asked the girl, “Would you say that most people living in this town are well off?”
The girl shrugged, and “Yes, probably.”
I looked around. “I have never felt comfortable in this kind of place. I grew up in a gritty, industrial town. The town is still gritty, but there isn’t any industry left there. I just feel more at home in a working class environment. This feels alien to me.”
She stared at me.
The girl said, “A lot people have been here for generations, but new people with money are moving in, and that raises the home prices and taxes”.
“So, some people are rich and some are just hanging on?”
“Yes, my grandmother lives here in town. She is just barely making it.”
It was quiet for a moment.
“By the way, my name is Frank.”
The young woman smiled, “I’m Cassandra.”
“Cassandra?”, I asked. “Like the woman in the Greek myths. From The Iliad I think?”
The girl smiled again. “Yes! It’s from The Iliad. Cassandra was pursed by one of the gods. He gave her the gift of prophecy. When she refused his advances, he cursed her so that nobody would believe what she predicted.”
“That is a common fate of prophets.”
Cassandra was confused, “How so?”
“Well, in the Bible, most of the prophets were ignored. It goes with the job.”
Then I remembered watching “Antigone” at West Point forty years ago.
I asked Cassandra, “Have you seen one of the old Greek plays on stage?”
She shook her head.
“They are really interesting.”
“Well, the plays are a lot like life. When the original audiences watched the plays, they already knew the stories. They already knew how the tragedies would end. But they still watched the show. They couldn’t look away. Sometimes, in life, you know how the story ends, but you can’t look away.”
“It was good to meet you, Cassandra. I have to find my wife.”
Karin and I saw the Hudson once more, heading west. It was up in the Adirondacks, near Speculator. We were weaving through the mountains when we crossed a small bridge. A turbulent, foaming stream flowed beneath us. The water was clear and swift.
It was the start of the Hudson.