Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Sagamore Hill, Fourth Of July, 2010: youth turns its back on history...
My apologies for the long absence. It's just that this Busybuddy has been -well, very busy: amidst the flurry of activity was playing (briefly!) the 30th anniversary celebrations for DC's 9:30 Club (May 31) a venue that played such a mighty part in the story of The Fleshtones -after short but enjoyable nights in Arlington, VA where we're always happy to perform at The IOTA as well as in Baltimore where we stalked Fells Point (boy has it changed!) for crab cakes, appeared at Otto's and stayed at the very recommendable Admiral Fell Inn (888 South Broadway, Baltimore, MD; www.harbormagic.com) just steps from where Edgar Allen Poe was last seen alive and where we woke up to find the British warship HMS Sutherland docked across the street; a great weekend to our mid-west including a visit (June 11) to the deliriously stylish Detroit home of socialite-rocker Muffy Kroha (a report on which awaits photographic documentation from the even busier Ken Fox) followed by a performance at The Magic Stick (which was not the site of Harry Houdini's last performance -that was in Detroit, but at The Garrick Theatre) attended by our favorite Detroit rock & rollers, as well as Chicago (June 12) where its' always nice to chat with Fleshtones biographer Joe Bonomo (read 'Sweat -the story of America's garage band' -I did -twice) and Beachland Ballroom (lodged in a great old Croatian National Home) in the Cleveland suburb of Euclid Beach, OH; a near-disastrous (thanks to Delta Airlines) sally into Florida (June 17 -19) where a no-show by the rest of the band due to airline malfunction was only salvaged by our friends in The Empyres (www.myspace.the empyres) and the editorial staff of Destination Weddings & Honeymoons Magazine (we've got to get back to FL, I know it will work out someday). Ken arranged for us to headline the wildly successful River Fest (June 26) in his current hometown of Beacon, NY with the majestic Hudson as a backdrop. After the performance Streng and I hitched a (spectacular) ride along the historic river with old friends from 'The Pyramid Club' days Greg (-nice photo of the Temple of Kulkulcan for the rear cover of The Fleshtones 'Beautiful Light' LP) Sarah and Sharon to the very Swedish Mid-summer party at my in-laws home in Nyack. Topping it all off was a whirlwind Fourth Of July with the family on Long Island.
view from 'The Admiral Fell'
An All-American Fourth Of July
The Zarembas figured attempting to navigate across Manhattan to watch the Macy's Fourth Of July Fireworks (since they've been moved way over to the Hudson River instead of the adjacent -to us! -East River) would just be so miserable that we searched for another, easily-accessible, small-town display. Riverhead, Long Island, was having fireworks and is only about an hour and forty-five minutes away -if you don't get nailed by 'Hamptons' traffic. That morning, however, we were unsure of our destination as we pulled away from our Greenpoint, Brooklyn home. I had already purchased a NYS 'Empire Passport', which allows access to state parks from Montauk to Niagara Falls ($65) so we set our course for Jones Beach (vehicle use fee without pass: $10 per car)) so Sergei could try out his new 'boogie board'. The crowds weren't bad at all (yet), but waves were also lacking, the sun was absolutely blinding and Sergei wouldn't go in the water despite the heat. Decisive action was needed, so we headed up to the 'north shore' where an 'Old Fashioned Fourth Of July Celebration' was underway at Sagamore Hill, the former country home of President Teddy Roosevelt (http://www.nps.gov/archive/sahi/home.htm). Instead of the hot, surly mobs we anticipated, we were pleased to discover (a parking space!) and crowds of good-natured holiday-makers out (like us) to enjoy the day at TR's beautiful estate. There was a crack brass band on the verandah, re-enactors in Rough Rider uniforms provided a mounted color-guard and 'ringer' James Foote posed as the great man himself. The flag was raised, the anthem sung and the band struck up appropriately stirring aires like 'The Big Stick March'. We toured the house, which I confess I had never done before, despite having grown up 'New York/Long Island'. There was lots of Teddy's stuffed big game, but the most interesting items were the saber and Stetson he wore at the charge up San Juan Hill cradled by the immense antlers of an elk, and a native American depiction of the Battle Of Little Big Horn on an animal hide. I did not notice his Nobel Peace Prize medal (for personally arranging the treaty between Japan and Russia ending their 1905 war). We didn't stay to hear any of TR's famous addresses, but as we departed I was very satisfied to hear that the president liked to wind-up his Independence Day celebrations at Sagamore Hill by setting off fireworks. One of the miracles of this patriotic day is that I, like Teddy, managed to keep all my fingers. I'll never forget my father demonstrating to this awed child the proper way to throw a lit cherry bomb (he still has all his fingers too, thank god).
young bather, Wildwood State Park
We still hadn't satisfied our yearning for a dip in the sea, so we sped out on the infamous LIE, past flashing signs warning of full parking lots at state parks like Heckshire, Robert Moses and Sunken Meadows, to island's far reaches in Riverhead Township. The signs at Wildwood State Park (vehicle use fee without pass: $4 per car) also said 'full', but we were waved in (did he see the pass or were we not noticed?) and simply waited about 90 seconds for someone to pull out of their parking spot. Were among perhaps a half dozen very conspicuous English-speaking families out of the tens of thousands enjoying the pleasantly cool waters of the Sound. Marilla and Sergei played paddle-ball on the pebbly beach, anglers cast for plentiful 'scup' while the otherwise low-laying life-guards made desultory attempts to prevent people from climbing (and destroying) the magnificent, tall sand bluffs backing the beach.
what a peach... Davis Farm, Wading River, LI
Leaving the park we stopped for freshly picked peaches at Davis Farm Stand (1039 Soundview Ave Rt.25A at Hulse Landing Rd, Wading River, LI: 631-886-1095; http://davispeachfarm.com/wp/). I can't tell you which peaches were more delicious -yellow, white or red, but free samples from the baskets of over-ripe 'seconds' sent luscious juice flowing down our arms. White and yellow cherries were delicious too, reminders of the bounty of Long Island's lost farmlands. We continued east along 25A through an (almost) unbroken agricultural landscape glowing in the golden sunlight of the late afternoon. I recalled, when as a little boy, the same lovely fields once stretched all the way into eastern Queens. I didn't want to spoil it for Sergei by telling him to take a good look. Soon all of this would be gone too.
We were entering Southold. Occupying the 'north fork' of 'fish-shaped Pomonok', this ancient township was a part of Connecticut back in the days before the English seized the rest of what is now New York from the Dutch. In recent times it's become wine country, which just might save agriculture on the North Folk -hopefully it's more profitable to grow grapes than sub-divisions. It's certainly more so than traditional crops like potatoes or cauliflower. I was even surprised to see a few small fields of wheat, waving in the sea-breeze as it's done here since the 1630's -and corn, as planted by the native Americans here for millennia before that. Our destination was my sister's village of Mattituck (she's off visiting Graceland) for ice cream. The Magic Fountain is the sort of old-style drive-in that every North American town once had at least one of, serving home-made ice creams, sodas and sundaes (9825 Main Rd, Mattituck, LI: 631-298-4908; ). Yes, at $3.50 a scoop, I'd say the prices approach 'boutique-ish', but the ambience and product are reassuringly authentic. There's a dizzying variety of flavors, with seasonal favorites like peach and avocado-coconut in the summer and pumpkin in the fall (yes, yes, yes, there's triple-chocolate/fudgy/mudpie/cocao/brownie/chocolate/whatever for those with one-flavor vocabularies). Having had dessert, we did diner in reverse -heading for 'Legends' (835 first Street, New Suffolk, LI: 631-734-5123; www.legends-restaurant.com) mostly because we knew it was there, figured we'd get a table and the four minute drive to the water-girt hamlet of New Suffolk is so pretty. Although it lacks the prerequisite dock-side dining (try Mattituck's Old Mill Inn for that: 631-298-8080; www.theoldmillinn.net/) the food is reliably good, in fact I'd say the New Suffolk (New York) style clam chowder (yeah yeah, it's soup -$6 -$9) and calamari con pepperonccini ($12) are great. The lamb shank and Long Island duckling (of course) looked good too.
After diner, we strolled across the road to the waterfront where a lonely historical sign marks the spot where inventor John Holland developed and tested the first practical submarines for the U.S. Navy at the turn of the previous century. A spectacular vermillion and purple sunset streaked the unbelievably broad sky, reminding us it was time to head west to catch the fireworks back in Riverhead. We got there just in time to pull over and join a clutch of people on the Rt. 105 Bridge (Cross River Rd) watching the fireworks mirrored on the waters of the Peconic River. Then an extraordinary drive as the surprisingly large-scale pyrotechnics of private citizens merged with legal displays of the towns that we passed. For 65 miles to both sides of the expressway and beckoning in the distance ahead the
'bombs bursting' punctuated the inky night sky, leading us back to Greenpoint and home.
Coming: Homeland Insecurity, Roman (non)Holiday, Gainsbourg Leigeois, Sjock! Sjock! Sjock! and 'TEXAS'.
The Fleshtones head north to Canada - Montreal 08/19, Toronto 08/20, Hamilton 08/21, see you all there!