(Pictured: the beach near Fire Island. The sky was spectacular, the water was wild, and since I was wearing dress shoes like Richard Nixon, this was as close as I got.)
Since last Tuesday, I have traveled from Long Island to northern Massachusetts to the Hudson Valley of New York to where I am now, in New Jersey, a bit closer to Trenton than I am to New York City. This part of the trip was iffy while we waited for Hurricane Joaquin to decide where he was going, but here I am.
A Wisconsin boy should see the ocean, so one afternoon I went down to Fire Island Beach, New York’s hippie paradise during the 1960s, and then drove Ocean Parkway on the southern edge of Long Island. You take the Robert Moses Causeway to get down to the ocean, named for the fabled New York city planner, crossing two high bridges to reach the spit of land where Ocean Parkway runs. At the end of the causeway is a stone obelisk, a monument to Moses, in the middle of a roundabout. It’s easy to imagine, centuries hence, travelers from elsewhere drawing up on the coast of the ruined North American continent and confronting that obelisk, an enigma on the shore.
On a day off, I visited the Franklin D. Roosevelt home, presidential library, and museum in Hyde Park, New York. Roosevelt is a political hero of mine, the man who saved the country during the Great Depression, and whose political vision, of an activist federal government taking strong and concrete steps to ensure the public good, is the only thing that can save us now. (“The test of our progress,” he said, “is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little,” which is pretty much the exact opposite of what our current political system is designed to do.) That said, his home was less impressive than Teddy Roosevelt’s—it was easy to magine TR stomping around Sagamore Hill; the FDR of Springwood, as his home is known, was more elusive.
I did plenty of dial surfing in the car. I especially enjoyed a Boston station called the River, an adult alternative station whose playlist ranged from Otis Redding and Johnny Cash to Dire Straits and Billy Idol to Florence and the Machine and Jason Isbell. They turned me on to Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, whose “S.O.B.” is going to end up the theme song of this trip, and to George Ezra, who despite his remarkably old-soul voice, is all of 22 years old. (Humorous video for Ezra’s “Listen to the Man,” co-starring a famous guest, is here.)
In New York, I listened to Hudson Valley Public Radio, actually a network that spans as far afield as northeastern Pennsylvania, which was gently swingin’ and pretty laid back. If it hadn’t been raining most of the time, I would have wanted something a bit more lively, but in the rain, it was awesome. The network’s weekend host is Bill Hillgrove, a longtime Pittsburgh broadcaster who is far better known as the play-by-play voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers and University of Pittsburgh football. But he’s a lifelong jazz fan, too.
On this trip, I have also learned what tricky tray is. There are yard signs for tricky tray fundraisers all over rural New Jersey.
The best part of the trip (at least until I get off the last airplane in Madison this Friday) was meeting my longtime Internet friends Kurt Blumenau (yesterday) and Larry Grogan (today) in the real world. I’ve been doing this blog thing long enough to remember when people worried that the Internet would make us strangers to one another, sitting solitary at our computers, never developing personal connections with others. But in fact, it’s created connections that wouldn’t have existed otherwise, and I’m grateful for all of mine.