Having been forced to leave Brooklyn because of Sandy (and feeling more than a bit useless as a result—I am eager to get back and help my community there), I’ve been effectively Newburgh-bound for the past week. My friend Jen from the lovely blog Honey Kennedy is here with me, as her long-planned vacation in NYC was completely upended by the storm. We decided to get ourselves out of the house for a bit and take a drive north up to my hometown, Rhinebeck.
We drove up on the east side of the Hudson River and stopped off at the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park along the way. The estate is open to the public, and even though I’ve been there many times in my life (admittedly most of them prior to age 13—that’s just how it is when you grow up in the Hudson Valley), I’ve never really taken it all in through adult (am I an adult?) eyes. So beautiful.
We got to Rhinebeck in the late afternoon. The skies had turned gray and drizzly, my favorite kind of light. Our fall foliage season seems to be dragging on for longer than usual this year, and there are still plenty of red, orange and yellow leaves hanging around. As much as I detested Rhinebeck as a teenager (and as much as I am grateful to live in cities with far greater diversity as an adult), it is nice to go back there every now and then. It’s sort of like a storybook idea of a small town, with block after block of perfectly-maintained houses built in the 1800s, slate sidewalks, smoke shop Indians, and tiny restaurants that close when the sun goes down.
Even though I’ve now lived away from Rhinebeck longer than I lived there, it’s still the only place where I don’t need to rely on my shoddy (non-)sense of direction. I know the roads of the village like the back of my hand. It feels like home. It’s hard for me to admit that. I guess I have a few places that feel like home to me.
A dusty purple house on South Street, my favorite cemetery, the Johnson’s old house on South Parsonage, Foster’s Coach House Tavern (I had French fries and red wine)…and a few Instagrams, too. I lived in that little red house until I was 17 and left for college. Every time I go back to Rhinebeck I’m happy to see it’s still red.
I dunno. I guess it’s just a thing with most people’s hometowns, right? They seem so much nicer after you leave.
(I like looking at people looking at art nearly as much as I like looking at art itself.)
Yesterday I had lunch at the Tate Modern and then walked around several of the exhibits, including the Edvard Munch show that’s currently on display. I loved the structure itself, a decommissioned steel-framed brick power station built in the 1950s and converted in the 1990s. It reminded me a bit of DIA:Beacon across the river from Newburgh—the same kind of space is afforded to larger works, something that’s not always possible in a cities where square footage is at a premium.
As overly-familiar as I thought I was with Munch’s work, I had never seen his photographic self-portraits before. There were a huge number of them on display, and that was definitely my favorite part of the show.
I can’t help feeling a little burst of hometown pride whenever I see work Newburgh’s own Ellsworth Kelly on display.
My unabashed love for Joseph Beuys continues! Beuys is one of those artists whose work can never translate well to photos or the printed page, so I’ll take any opportunity I can to see it in person.
And some thoughts about being here in general…
Last night when my London host and I were out, he asked what my impression was of London and its people so far, and I didn’t really have an answer. I thought about it for a minute, and then realized that don’t actually have the sense of “otherness” here that I expected to. Honestly, going to the New Jersey suburbs for a day feels far more foreign to me than the short time I’ve spent in London so far does. It feels different from NYC in the same way the Philadelphia does, I suppose. Earlier in the day when my host was wondering if he should tell me about the history and significance of places we were talking through, I say yes, of course—but then realized that I am the sort of person who tends to regard every new experience in life in sort of the same, equal way. I don’t expect to be awed, but it’s just as likely that I’ll be impressed (for lack of a better word) by a centuries-old building as I would a beautiful contemporary textile or a well-designed book cover. The meaning afforded to locations by the course of history just doesn’t matter much to me if I don’t have a personal connection. I’m not saying that’s a positive, really, it’s just who I am for whatever reason. Interesting to discover these things about myself, in any case.
p.s. Thank you so much for all of the suggestions for Saturday plans on yesterday’s post. So many great ideas!
I did it! I got on a plane all by myself and flew to another place that is not in New York. I even used money that isn’t dollars! Good thing I know how to speak English. There was a snafu at the airport that culminated in having to unexpectedly take a taxi to my destination, but it all turned out just fine. My driver was a former schoolteacher who gave it all up for a new career as a cabbie, and he was very excited to talk to someone from New York about the whole thing. His entire knowledge of NYC seemed to come from watching Taxi Driver and Saturday Night Fever, so he was a bit disappointed that I don’t have a classic New York accent, but I tried to represent my city well! (He was also slightly obsessed with Florida and Disney World, two things I know virtually nothing about, but I listened and smiled and tried to be impressed when told about his daughter’s wedding at Cinderella’s Castle…)
Yesterday was really just spent recovering from my overnight flight and relaxing, and I actually woke up this morning at 7:00 AM London time with no alarm clock, so hopefully I’ve avoided getting bad jet lag. I’ve opted to not really make plans and instead leave that up to my host, and that’s keeping me from being swallowed up by all of the travel-related anxieties I’ve written about having. So today we’re heading to the Tate and the Design Museum, both of which I’m sure I’ll enjoy immensely.
Look at me! Traveling!
p.s. I’ve been told that I have to decide what to do on Saturday. So…here’s your chance: If I can only do ONE thing on Saturday in London, what should it be? (Keep in mind that I have zero interest in the royal family, etc.)