Montauk, Work, York, Work, Thanksgiving & Omicron

A Beautiful Sunrise Early On A Day When The Surf Was Up

By Cecil Hoge

August 11th, 2021

We are back in Montauk for vacation in the new normal. Everyone we speak to tells us that Montauk this summer has been “crazy”. Delmack, the Jamaican lady who comes and cleans our room each day tells us Montauk has been “crazy”.

”People do not want to go in town…it’s just too crazy…no parking, cars jutting in and out everywhere, people everywhere, no space in the shops, no tables free in the restaurants…yes, Montauk is crazy.”

It was not that way last summer when many stayed away from indoor restaurants and shops. The town was still crowded, the beaches were crowded and outdoor restaurants were crowded, but then many wore masks and many were far more cautious in their vacation celebrations.

The Pandemic still about, but far more people have been vaccinated and there is sense that things are returning to some kind of normal.

But at the WaveCrest, our Montauk vacation residence, it seems normal is already here. In the mornings, there are beautiful sunrises most days. Early in the morning, the beaches are empty except for one or two fishermen and some eager early morning walkers or joggers. During the day, the umbrellas pop up on the beach and beach chairs are laid out and families and kids come and then girls looking for boys and boys looking for girls come and then, others looking for each other come…they all sit around in little clusters and the only sound heard except that of the ocean surf is the motoring sound of the beach buggy zipping back and forth, hauling umbrellas and and chairs to their appointed places. As mid-morning comes the voices of kids and adults are heard drifting across the beach with the sound of the ocean murmuring quietly or roaring loudly with waves breaking on the beach.

Today, the ocean is murmuring…making a sound more like Long Sound than the great Atlantic Ocean. Other days, the surf is booming. We came the day after a tropical storm and then the sea was still fierce with waves crashing in thunderous booms. But no more, the weather has turned hot, the wind has dropped to a stall, the sun blisters everything that exposes itself for more than 20 minutes. It is as hot as Montauk gets. We are at the end of Long Island and usually cool breezes sweep over these rolling hills and somewhat barren landscape and generally it never really gets that hot. But these days it is.

Big Doings are going on in the world. The present President is struggling with his new job and his recent decision to depart Afghanistan. It is not going well, two bombs went off near the airport in Kabul and over 100 people were killed, including 13 U.S. servicemen. Leaving is not easy and whether it could be done better is on the minds of many. I have decided that our exit from Afghanistan was not correctly planned, but I have no knowledge of what good withdrawal would look like. Hopefully, something less than the present chaos. That said over 100,000 people have been flown out and many thousands more are hopefully waiting to leave. Whatever, it is not a pretty or a proud exit. For those who remember, it reminds one of the last days of Saigon.

On the stock market front, all is seemingly well. Markets seem to be drifting ever higher in this strange summer. The immediate market collapse that was predicted by the former President, like the reversal of recent election results and the magical disappearance and demise of the Pandemic, has not come to pass.

In fact, on the Coronavirus front, Covid 19 has again raised its ugly face. As we begin this vacation, cases are running 140,000 a day, hospitalizations are again getting very high in certain Southern States and deaths are running over 1,000 per day. In short, in spite of vaccinating almost 50% of the population, the number of cases and hospitalizations are higher than at the same time last year. Deaths are running just a little above their levels at the same time last year. We shall see how that is proceeding as one vacation in Montauk proceeds and another vacation in Maine.

Two vacations in the same year may sound obscene, but, hey, we are getting on in age and we have to make the most of it…so, two vacations is this year’s plan.

Among things we find that have not changed at the WaveCrave is the very convenient food truck parked about 50 feet from our motel room door. That is a truly great feature in this crazy busy summer season in Montauk. All that is necessary is to mosey out of our motel room door, walk the 50 feet and give Steve my order for the morning. And doing so, Steve, the proprietor of the WaveCrave truck, fills me in on the latest.

”Montauk has been Crazy this summer,” he says, echoing the very words of Delmack, our Jamaican cleaning lady. We will hear that more and more as this vacation goes on and we go on to the next vacation. The word “crazy” seems to be the new byword for this summer.

“It’s really crazy…prices of everything are going up, people want their stuff fast and I can’t get no help…I’m looking, but you can’t find people to work.”

After some preliminary chitchat on the state of the summer and Steve’s business, I place my order with Steve – a Basic Joe (2 eggs, sausage & cheese on a roll) for me and a Nancy Atlas (3 eggs, avocado and some other health ingredients in a wrap) for my wife. Steve informs me that the two orders will be ready in 8 minutes. I go off and sit down at nearby table where I can survey the sea and consult my oblong.

Oblong is the descriptive term given to cell phones by a Japanese writer I happen to be reading. “Klara and The Sun” is the book and Kazuo Ishiguro is the author. It is the the strange tale told by an AF (artificial friend) about a sickly young lady. Oblong is the term applied to peoples’ cell phones and I think it is quite appropriate.

After scanning incoming emails, I scan the news…it is not good. Nobody is happy about the mess in Afghanistan and the Covid numbers are stubbornly high. It seems that the disease has no respect for our wishes. That is worse for the present President, since he has promised to make it go away. Well, he promised to get out of Afghanistan and indeed he did that. But what a mess. The fight against Covid seems similarly messy. The more we vaccinate, the more the virus seems to stick around. This summer the problem is being blamed on the Delta Virus, the latest mutation of that tricky Coronavirus. 

”Cecil,” Steve calls out and I slip my oblong into my pocket and meander over to Steve. All is well, I pick up my breakfast orders and head back to the hacienda 50 feet away. My wife and I set up the little table on the porch where we can observe the first stirrings of people out on the beach. My wife sits in the portable rocking chair we brought, I sit in the comfy lounge chair that came with room. We sip coffee and munch away at our breakfasts. Out in front of our porch the waves break on the sand and a hot new day has begun. My wife complains that her sandwich is too big. Considering that it is advertised to have 3 eggs, that is no surprise. Fresh air blows in from the Atlantic onto our little porch overlooking the sea, the sun is getting higher, a few people are walking along the ocean beach. Life is good.

In Montauk, I spent the days going for a swim in the ocean while my wife enjoyed the comforts of her much larger oblong (an iPad Pro) and some good books, sitting in the rocker, overlooking the beach, her morning made in the shade on our covered porch. As noon passes, each day we ponder eating choices. This year we are determined to eat in as many restaurants as will have us. 

Of course, as a matter of ritual, we go to Gossman’s, which my wife finds lacking in the swordfish she ordered while I happily munch down what appears to be quite fresh tuna. Some days chicken, some days chicken feathers. Our meals with Gossman’s have been hit or miss recently with one invariably having a much better meal than the other. There are compensations for this not so reliable food service. You sit outside in the shade or inside the main restaurant with windows wide open. Either way, there is a great view of the inlet with boats parading in and out is just a few feet away. The sea air is fine to breathe and you can feel lucky in just being there, even if your meal ain’t what it should be.

In the afternoons, I would often take a stroll down the beach and it looked like this…uncrowded, pristine and definitely not crazy.

In the days that follow, we slip into a pattern of breakfasts from the WaveCrave in the morning, swimming or paddling or walking along the beach and heading out in the early afternoon for a sit down meal at one of the many local restaurants. My wife has this theory that a late lunch is better than a lunch and a dinner so that is our solution to dieting. I have admit that two squares a day sometimes don’t always make it for me and often I hit the vanilla ice cream later in the day.

Early in the trip, I discover that I have forgotten my all important paddling gloves so I meander over to Amagansett to the Beach and Bicycle store to fix this omission. Beach and Bicycle quickly informs me that the summer has been “crazy” and that they are all sold out of paddling gloves. That is unusual because they usually carry a pretty wide selection of paddling equipment, but the lady informs me that there are “logistic” problems and that they sold out of all sorts paddling stuff. I don’t commiserate with her about “logistic” problems. Otherwise, I would spend an extra half day listing a litany of my “logistic” problems.

In any case, we both agree it has been a “crazy” summer. But all is not lost. The lady remembers they also sell bike gloves, so I buy a really sexy pair of TREK gloves with all sorts nice Italian names listed on them. The lady informs me they are the last pair she has and they are very good quality for just $65. These gloves are really more like bikini gloves, but I figure in the hot weather Montauk is experiencing, they might just be the thing I need. So, I snap them up before someone can come into the store and snatch them away.

And the $65. proves to be well spent because shortly afterward I ask her about where a good paddle spot might be where I can park my car. Most places on the East End require a Easthampton parking permit. For those of you who do not know it, Easthampton is the township that covers everything east of Southampton to Montauk. The parking permits cost 300 bucks a pop, but the real catch 22 is that the town doesn’t really issue any…you have a better chance of winning the New York lottery for 5 billion dollars. It seems the town of Easthampton does not want evil kayakers molesting their waterways and stumbling into their restaurants and stores.

Anyway, the lady gives me a tip on a great paddling spot on the North side of Amagansett off of Landing Road. It so happens that I actually know the spot and have paddled there several times before, but last year the Town of Easthampton had put up a sign saying parking stickers were required. The lady tells me that parking permits are no longer required there and so I get the good news I can go to what is surely one the prettiest paddling spots on Long Island.

Armed with this good news and my sexy new paddling (bicycle) gloves, I return to the WaveCrest…my mission accomplished. And of course, I tell my wife the good news. She remembers the spot and is happy to hear it.

My wife took this pic of me at one of Gossman’s restaurants waiting for the arrival of our oysters and tuna while boats ply their way in and out of Lake Montauk.

On that good note, we head out for another afternoon lunch…this time to Duryeas. Now this a place that has a long history in Montauk. In the late sixties and the early 70s, there was a New York Assemblyman named Perry Duryea. He was reputed to be a very sharp and wise politician. He was known as the Silver Fox because of his silver white hair and trim frame. His family owned a lobster business in Montauk. In doing that, they set up some picnic tables out back where you could could come and have lobsters and beers. It was a pretty unassuming place, but it had really good lobsters, good fish and good beer to top it off with.

We used to go there for many, many years. Fast forward to the era of oblongs and the Pandemic and the same place has morphed into a super sleek and artsy-crafty seafood restaurant with some really good fish and lobsters at really high prices. I am not a fan of their service system which requires you to mark down on a paper menu what seafood specialities you want and what drinks you might require. As you come into the place there is a little sign informs you that “Everybody here is famous”. Whether that is to make you feel good or to attract famous people, I am not sure.

There is a nice French lady that, once the wait for table is over, leads you to a table. They have added some pretty striped cushions to wooden bench seats in one part of the restaurant and there is nice long dock with some nice tables and seats that leads out to several go fast boats that will, if you have an invitation, take you to some billionaire’s mega yacht. Pretty young ladies parade by on that dock past the tables of famous diners and on to the impressive GoFast boats.

The place is in one way very similar to original Duryeas, but now has been Euronized so the famous are sure to come and diners cannot escape for less than $200 a couple. And indeed, there are a lot pretty people pecking at their lobster towers while sipping some nice wine or a bit of the bubbly. And back to the subject of a wait, yes, there always is. Generally, it seems to be 20 to 40 minutes, although it may be faster for the chosen famous who occasionally drop by. The place starts and, no doubt, ends crowded, each day, presuming good weather, soft summer breezes and warm temperatures prevail.

My wife and I are partial to the Branzino which they serve whole with fish head intact and some delicious veggies and peppers and sauces surrounding the display. I have had similar servings of this fish in Italy and in Asia. And if the sauces are right and fish is fresh and veggies good, I really recommend that dish. We have had it at Duryeas a couple of times and each time we nominate it as our best meal in Montauk. As mentioned, I am not a fan of their self serve system. In particular, I do not like having to get up, walk over an order booth and order another wine for my wife and another seltzer for myself. I just think if you are going to have $200/plus for lunch with your wife, people should come to your table and take your order and bring everything you ask for. But, it is what it is and I still think they do have the best fish in Montauk.

Some great whites pondering my presence on Acabonic Harbor where we go to paddle.

In Montauk, we ended up having many a lunch in many a place. Some were good, some were not. Pretty much everyday, I went for a swim in the ocean and for me that was grand. Several days, my wife and I went paddling on the North side of Amagansett in Acabonic harbor and that was grand…with birds aplenty, scenic water views and some tranquil peace on the water. On other days, I went for a paddle by myself, also in Acabonic Harbor.

During our stay in Montauk stock markets kept drifting upward. Some days the markets would take a momentary dip, but most days the markets would resume their relentless upward trend. Why stocks were moving upward was not exactly clear because economic reports were mixed and often there were earning disappointments in the case of individual companies or disappointments in employment reports. But the ever wise investors paid no heed to any economic concerns and markets just kept trending upward.

As the days passed in Montauk, the numbers of Delta virus cases began to steadily increase. And with the increase of cases, shortly thereafter came an increase hospitalizations and deaths. Since my wife is not a big fan of news, whether it comes on TV, internet or otherwise, I kept up with the goings on through my oblongs – my cell or my iPad. Because I like to look at charts, I took to looking at the interactive charts the New York Times publishes, like the one below showing the up and down progress of the Coronavirus as of October 10th, 2021. By that time, the Coronavirus had kindly started to once again decline.

Of course, we all know that every media company has its agenda and the New York Times is well-known for its liberal leanings. That said, the charts I was looking were tracking actual reported numbers of Delta variant cases, hospitalizations and deaths and these same numbers were also reported by many other media companies, as well John Hopkins Hospital, which has established a special section of their website to track the rise and fall of the Coronavirus.

As mentioned before, the rebirth of the Coronavirus through the Delta variant this summer was very embarrassing to Joe Biden, the present President. It was a key promise of his in getting elected to get control of the Coronavirus. And if one thing was very clear, it was that the Coronavirus was still not under control.

This is a chart showing the number of Coronavirus cases since they began in February of 2020 until October, 10th, 2021. As you can see, it started slow in the winter of 2020 and then went up in the summer of 2020. It then went down somewhat in September and October of 2020 only to rise again to a much higher peak in the winter of 2021. In the spring and early summer it declined again only to go up again in July, August and September of 2021. By October 10th, Coronavirus cases declined again, but at much higher levels than October 2020.

It is interesting here to note the various agendas of different left and right leaning media companies. Fox News was touting at every chance what a great tragedy it was for us to get out of Afghanistan, leaving our former friends and allies at the whim of the Taliban and what a great mess the immigrant problem was at the border. Strangely, this was the same media company backing the former President who declared it was policy of his to get out of Afghanistan. So, regarding Afghanistan, it would seem that Fox News was most upset that President Biden carried out the stated policy of the previous President in a messy manner.

And as mentioned, when Fox News was not talking about the collapse and terrible defeat of our efforts in Afghanistan, it was talking about the rush of refugees coming over the Mexican border. And indeed both of those things were happening in real time, so they both were true events.

Meanwhile, in another world away, CNN and MSNBC were busy discussing the terrible events of the January 6th “insurrection” and the fact that Donald Trump was still saying the election had been stolen from him. CNN and MSNBC ran videos over again and again of the Congress being overrun by protesters and clips of The Donald saying he was robbed. It is also true that both those things were happening, but it was clear, and should be clear to anyone watching all three media networks, that each media network had an agenda and none were unbiased in their approach to the news.

In Montauk, as elsewhere, not everybody was happy with the state of the world. At Phil’s Auto Repair it looks like Phil was one of the disgruntled.

Our days in Montauk were blessedly free from digital distraction and/or political discussions. We would get up, have a simple breakfast, swim or walk and go to lunch for an afternoon. My wife and I would have our 2 squares…that is, breakfast and a late lunch. After lunch, either my wife and I or just me would go for a paddle in Acabonic Harbor, taking in the scenic water views and watching birds happily munching on minnows and diving for larger fish.  

Dinner most days was then omitted. We would come back to the room, watch the sun fade on the ocean, catch a little tube and retire. The omission of dinner was generally good for the diet except in my case, because almost every afternoon or evening I would run down to John’s Drive In and augment my calorie intake with vanilla ice cream. It was maybe not the best dietary schedule, but it surely was quite pleasant.

Our several weeks came and went as vacations do. The meals were good, the swimming was good, the walking, the paddling and the relaxing on the porch overlooking was all good. And as everyone said, Montauk was crazy. The restaurants had lines and in the stores you had to walk sideways just to get past clutches of customers. Each night, the sun would go down as we would watch the waves breaking from the comfort of our porch. somehow, the memory of the crowded restaurants and stores would fade with afternoon sun.

But soon, as in all things, the time passed and we headed home, back to the real world.

For next two weeks we returned to our real hacienda, which was not hard to do, since Montauk is only 60 miles from Setauket. There I re-entered the world of work and spent my time on ”logistic issues”. That consisted mainly in chasing container shipments, trying to figure out when they get on a ship, off a ship, on a truck and off a truck and finally in our warehouse. It was a merry chase. Perhaps, merry is not the correct word.

When not working on getting products to ship and sell, I am spending my time working on the two new boat models I plan to introduce in 2022. I plan to introduce a new larger pontoon boat to be named the FastCat 14.4. It will hold up to 4 people and a 20 hp motor. It will go 22 mph and I have been testing a prototype of this model at my house all this spring and much of the summer. I am also developing a new larger expedition Travel Canoe designed to take large quantities of gear for extended trips on lakes and rivers. we have already gotten two prototypes of that model and a 3rd prototype is shown above. It is not quite right, but it is getting close. The model above is to be called the Travel Canoe 17. Both the 14.4 and 17 refer to the feet lengths of the two models.

This year has been both satisfying and frustrating. Sales are up for the second year in row, but headaches about getting orders produced, shipments sent, containers into our warehouse, having stock of different models and getting orders shipped out…all these problems seemed to have been magnified by 10.

And of course, we are seeing, like virtually everyone else on planet earth, price increases on everything and delays in production, shipping in, shipping out. All of these problems cause additional problems with customers. Explaining where shipments are, when they are expected and when they will be shipped out adds a great deal of work, especially when almost every shipment coming in gets delayed. 

I have been having things made around the world for over 50 years and I have never seen things this difficult, this screwed up.
We are seeing this both in our fishing lure business and in our inflatable boat business. And whether it is packaging or shipping or materials or production, whether it is in the U.S., Asia or Europe, we are seeing day to day cost increases. And of course, that means that we will have to raise our prices for the coming year and what effect that will have God only knows.

So, Phil, the auto repair guy in Montauk, is not the only businessman unhappy with the state of the world.

This year, we planned something unusual…a second vacation. My wife and I have planned to go visit a cousin in York, Maine. So, after two weeks ricocheting between instructions to suppliers on new products and chasing existing products and pushing out old and new models, off we go to the great State of Maine.

To do that, we take the very convenient Port Jefferson Ferry to Bridgeport, Connecticut and after 20 minutes of wandering down some sorry looking streets in Bridgeport we manage to get on 95. From there it is quite literally a straight shot to York, Maine.

York, Maine is only a little over 4 hours away driving on Route 95. The nice point here is that you don’t have to think too much, since 95 leads directly past York, Maine. In fact, the only difficult part was following signs from the Bridgeport Ferry terminal to 95. It should be easy since it is less than 2 miles away, but at the very last turn, the one you need to make, the authorities have omitted to place any sign referencing 95. That led to a 15 minute detour around some of Bridgeport neighborhoods, but after several lefts, rights and a circle or two, we were on track, on the great highway 95 corridor.

Thereafter, it was all a piece of cake. and strangely, 95 was not its usual ”crazy”. It seems they have actually fixed some parts of that road, which from Bridgeport to New Haven to Providence always had bumpy, unpaved sections under construction to slow you down and slow your way through. This time the ride was blissfully smooth and without incident.

The view from our room overlooking the York River which leads directly out to the Atlantic Ocean.

About 4 and half hours later we were checking into something called DockSide Quarters. That consisted of an old Captain’s house on a promontory overlooking the York River and a nice collection nearby of bungalows with small suites overlooking York Harbor. Our room is quite comfortable. I should say rooms because there is an outer living room with a kitchenette to the side that leads directly to our bedroom. In front of the living room, there is a nice porch with the view you see in the picture above. We arrived at our quarters around 4 in the afternoon and immediately plopped down on the porch and watched a continual parade of boats coming into the river and going out into the ocean. York has long been an active little port with recreational boaters, lobstermen, lobster ladies, commercial fishermen, commercial fisher ladies coming and going with boats of many styles.

I can say we were happy with the hotel setup. It was indeed a very nice place. Because we both somewhat tuckered from our drive, we called my cousin to let her know we would catch up with her and her partner the next day. Since the day was getting on, I took over the main job of lining up victuals for evening. I accomplished that by walking down from our room, past the captain’s house, past the operating boat yard to a small bar situated directly overlooking York Harbor. There I ordered, guess what, two lobster sandwiches, french fries and cole slaw. While I waited for the meals to be prepared, I had a large seltzer and struck up a conversation with a husband and wife who were enjoying evening cocktails as the sun was slowly declining and the Maine chill was ascending. I asked what the summer had been like.

“It was crazy, all of Massachusetts and much of the rest of the country came this summer. The stores, the roads are clogged and it was impossible go almost anywhere.”

And so the operative word for this summer still remained ”crazy”. I talked a little more with the couple about York and the weather.

The guy asked me I where we came from. Long Island I replied.

”Well the weather is pretty much same. We don’t get a lot of snow in winter here. They do get a lot of snow 5 miles inland, but here the ocean keeps the temperatures moderate and generally the winters are mild.”

I did not want to disagree, but already it seemed to me that the weather in York was a good 10 degrees cooler and that afternoon as the sun was setting, it was getting downright nippy. But no matter. I was happy to talk to the couple and get some info on York.

The guy turned out to be a kayaker. That gave me an opportunity to ask about put-ins, take-outs and nice places to paddle. It turned out that there was a nice scenic place to paddle right around the hotel. The hotel was situated on something called Harris Island. I would not have called it an island because a road led onto the island. My preferred term would have been peninsula, but who was I to argue with the locals? Anyway, my conversation with the nice couple gave me a pretty good idea where to go for at least that paddle.

The open bar had an interesting setup in order to provide food. About 20 feet from the open bar and tables with umbrellas was a food truck that made up whatever meals and snacks customers ordered. In no time the lobster sandwiches and sides were ready. I grabbed the bag with the food, finished my seltzer and said goodbye to the nice couple.

Within minutes, my wife and I were enjoying our lobster sandwiches in our quaint room overlooking the York River. Since we had savored lobster sandwiches in Montauk, that immediately led to a family discussion of who had the best lobster sandwiches. That was hard choice, but my wife and I quickly came to the belief that it was a close choice between Steeve’s lobster sandwiches at the WaveCrave or the DockSide Bar lobster sandwiches. We gave the to edge to the DockSide Bar which had lobster slightly fresher and juicier, but trust me it was a very close call.

We spent the next several days meeting up with my cousin and her partner, Kerry, and going sometimes to their house for lunch or dinner and sometimes, here and there in York for lunch or dinner. My cousin is a therapist, so she deals with people’s problems, be they real, imagined, physical or mental. And I gather people in York have just as much problems as they have on Long Island. Her customers, aka her patients, suffer a wide variety of physical and psychological problems. I gather that many of her patients came to her specifically because they could not get help from their regular doctors. And whether the problem was physical or psychological problems, one thing was always true – their problems were real to them.

In the last year, because of the Pandemic, my cousin tells me the way she treated her patients changed. Pre-pandemic, patients came to her office and sat down in front of her and laid out their problems two or three feet away. Since the onset of the Pandemic, she treated patients exclusively by Zoom. And apparently, business by Zoom has been a boom. No lockdown threatened her business, which apparently became busier than ever, with back to back Zoom meetings instead of face to face meetings in her office.

I asked her how that was working out.

”Great,” she said, ”I do not have to leave my house and the patients seem more at ease to tell me what is really bothering them.”

And I gather a lot is bothering her patients, dealing with deaths of a relative or a loved one, suffering from bouts of insomnia, some with deep traumas coming from sexual assault at one time or another, some dealing with incessant pain, some dealing with a barrage of other physical ailments, some with deep insecurities about their jobs, their life, some with hard economic problems, some dealing with alcohol and drug abuse, some just freaked out by the stress caused by the Pandemic or money problems, some dealing with stress caused by the patients themselves. So my cousin was monitoring a host of problems and trying to advise and help her patients with all sorts of physical and mental issues.

And from what my cousin was telling me the business of coping with psychological and physical problems was booming. The Pandemic seemed to be multiplying the problems people faced day to day. Her days was fully booked from 9 to 5 with patients from all over Maine with many problems. How to advise all her different patients seemed to me a very difficult job, but my cousin Wendy had been doing this for years and apparently is able to work her way through other people’s problems.

I asked her if she thought dealing with patients was easier before or during the Pandemic.

”It is easier for me because all I have to do turn on the computer. It gives me certain distance between me and my patients and, in many ways, it seems easier for the patients. They seem to feel freer to tell me what their real problems are. It is as if the computer puts a plexiglass wall between us and they feel free to express the truth because I am not actually in the room. One thing is for sure. There are a lot more problems out there and many more people need help.”

I tried to think what it must be like dealing with lots of people with lots of problems. In a way, I feel that happens with some of my employees. They sometimes have problems and sometimes I have to figure out ways to help them. But the operative word is sometimes. Thinking of my cousin dealing with non-stop problems day after day, I am not sure I would not develop have deep psychological problems myself just listening to other people’s deep psychological problems. I can only admire cousin’s fortitude in dealing with an endless parade of Zoom patients.

My cousin happens to be a fairly active lady, so during our visit we go kayaking on several days. She has taken the occasion of our visit to take a few days vacation so paddling is practical. Our trips were on the York River, which turns out to have lots of intimate waterways and scenic spots. on the second day we go for a paddle around Harris Island, which indeed turns out to be quite beautiful. The weather is cool, but not cold, with bright sun and clear blue skies and just a few cumulous white clouds. The spin around the island takes about an hour and involves paddling around a small bay leading to a narrow water path and then paddling under a low bridge to the other side of the island. It is the kind of paddle that puts fresh air in your lungs and new energy in your body.

In the late afternoons or evenings in York, we would head out to a local restaurant or head over to my cousin for dinner. She and her partner are vegetarians, so the fare at her house is all vegetarian. That is fine for me and my wife. We have had plenty of meat and seafood dinners over this summer. A couple of meals of veggies cooked freshly and deliciously by my cousin not only are healthy interludes, they taste delicious. So it all is a win, win.

Our days at the Dockside Guest Quarters start in a very similar way to the way they started in Montauk. The Dockside offers free breakfasts, so in the morning, I walk about 75 feet the Captain’s house and pick up a tray for breakfast. It includes a hot pot of coffee for 2, warmed buns, honey, jellies and jams and sometimes eggs or pancakes or french toast. And like our mornings in Montauk, we would sit on the porch, munch on the breakfast goodies and check out the waterviews. The view of the York River and ocean beyond was a little different than the sandy beaches of Montauk and the ocean beyond, but the feel of breakfast in York is much the same.

On another day, my cousin and drive inland to Scotland Bridge Road which conveniently has a bridge going over the York River. Just before the bridge is a place to pull over and park with an easy put-in to launch a kayak. It takes only a few minutes to inflate and setup up one my inflatable kayaks. We then launch and head up river with the tide, which is about a half hour from full high tide. That fact provides us with some current to paddle up river, which we do for about 45 minutes.

Unlike our earlier paddle around Harris Island the scenery up river is quite different and so is the weather. As we proceed upriver, the waterway becomes more intimate and marsh-like. The weather on this day is also a study in contrasts…it now being hot and almost sweaty to paddle. The sun burns down on us with an intensity I had not considered possible for early October in Maine. on this section of the river, it meanders through reeds and marsh areas, looking more and more like a salt water tidal marsh and no longer like a flowing river.

Here is great blue heron who soon became irritated by my presence.

After paddling for about 45 minutes, I sensed from afar that my wife becoming a little bored by the fact that we were still paddling and so I tell my cousin it is time to reverse course. Theoretically, the tide should be in our favor and should be assisting us in our downriver paddling. Such is not the case, the York River is seemingly unaware that is should retreating back to the sea. It stubbornly wants to take us back up river. That required a little extra paddling on our part, but we did make progress and the scenery are all good. Eventually, we did make back under the Scotland Road Bridge. And true to form, as soon as I opened the air valves of our kayak at the takeout, I could see that the river had reversed course and the current was now running briskly. If only we had come back a little later on that paddle back we would have had a true cake walk.

The vacation in York was fine and uneventful. We spent a lot of time sitting on our porch sunning ourselves and admiring the York River and Atlantic Ocean beyond. It was busy a harbor and boats came and went from just before dawn until just after sunset. In the late afternoons we would walk to the captain’s house and sit on one the benches overlooking the harbor. It was a pretty site as you from the picture below.

This is part of York Harbor as seen from the Captain’s House. The York River has a 7 to 10 foot tide. Here the tide is close to low. At high tide, the boats rise, the river waters come up near the grass and you do not see most of the pilings of the dock at the right.

And again, as every vacation, our trip to York, Maine came to an end and we got back on the great Northeast corridor and drove down to Bridgeport where we were lucky enough to catch an early a ferry and get home before the sun set. It was all good.

Back at home for next few weeks, much was the same. I was busy chasing containers, trying to figure out new prices for next year. On that front the news was pretty grim. Not only had all of our suppliers increased prices, but the costs for 40’ containers had taken an astronomical increase. In May of this year the cost of a container was $7,500. By August it was $20,000, by September it was $25,000. Since we can only get 200 to 500 inflatable boats in a container, this meant a huge increase in shipping costs for each boat. So, it became our sad duty to calculate how much we would have to charge extra for each boat. That is a kind of art…you have to choose between what you think the market may accept and what you think you need. I never liked the process of raising prices, but I have lot of practice. All I can say is that I think a lot price increases will only start working there way into the system next year. God help us all.

In the meantime, stock markets have taken this period as a chance to go on to new all time records. Yes, the mavens and the economists and the pundits and the scalawags and the experts are all agreed. The markets can only go up. By end of this year, they predict markets will go up more. By the end of next year, markets are sure to go up way more. Happy Days are Here Again.

Thanksgiving has come and I still have not called this blog story a wrap. Many things have happened since we took our 2 vacations and I came back to work. Fall has come and winter is on the way. Most of the leaves on our trees have already fallen on our lawn. The temperatures have dropped day to day and winter winds have increased. I have switched over to rowing from paddling because that is warmer form of exercise and two oars are more effective than one paddle again our brisk Northwest winds.

This year has not been easy. My wife and son have been dealing with different health issues. The general atmosphere of the Pandemic rising and falling, rising and falling again, has not helped, the pressure and stresses of life going on, the early results of a change in government, the existence of old problems and new problems. And in spite all of the above, the strange fact that our two businesses are having their best year ever. So times is strange.

There has been much to be fearful of, much to be stressed out about and yet life has gone on reasonably well, with a strange sense worry interlaced with the surprise that there are some real world anchors that make you think not all is crazy, not all is ungrounded.

We end up having a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with about 12 family and friends coming over. It has been a hard time for some, but all of us have made it through. We feast on a 22 lb. turkey that arrived by UPS two days before Thanksgiving. The stuffing, the sweet potatoes with roasted marshmallows, the turnips, the salad, the heapings of gravy, the mashed potatoes and more stuffing are all great and everyone agrees…it has been a hard year, but we have made it through and we are thankful.

The next day, Black Friday, so named because it is the day when retail stores supposedly become profitable for the year, is somewhat concerning. A new mutation of the Coronavirus has just been discovered in South Africa. It is thought to be more contagious and more deadly than even the dread Delta virus. The new virus is named Omicron and it is thought to be a ”virus of concern”. Some speculate that it may evade vaccines and re-infect people who previously had Covid.

Stock markets around the world all take a sharp dive. They are still close to all-time highs, but suddenly there is the strange and unknown fear that markets may be subject to going down. Who knew?

In a slight paraphrase of a once popular song, ”We Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”

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Thoughts About My Family

By Cecil Hoge


None of us knows how long we shall live. I wish to take this moment to make a small summing up of what I have come across in writing this collective story of my family, myself and the times we live and lived in. I began this blog in 2011. It now 10 years since I have been posting stories about my family, myself and the times we are passing through. Perhaps in another 10 years I will write another summing up. Perhaps, in another 10 years I will be long gone.

I think of the changes in my own life and I find many of them strange. For example, when I was 16, I took a jet air airplane (a Boeing 707) across the Atlantic to Europe. It was only a few weeks after jet travel had been introduced to transatlantic flights. That flight from New York to Berlin was to meet my new family. My father had remarried and in doing so I gained a step-mother.

My mother was still alive at the time, but her life was already over.

When I flew across the Atlantic I thought about what might be the future of airplanes. At 16, I had a number of convictions: Airplanes would become far faster. Airplanes would become far more comfortable. Airplanes would become accessible to all. Of those three things only the last became true. Of course, in this time of continuing Covid, not everyone is ready to take advantage of air travel. The most surprising thing about the flight in 1958 and air travel today, such as it is, was that airplanes did not become faster. That was supremely strange to me. Then the fact that they became far less comfortable was also amazing to me. How could that be?

I will say jet airplanes have become somewhat quieter. I do remember the noise flying to Europe being quite loud, but then again, jet airplanes are still loud.

Most surprising to me was the fact that airplane seats today are far closer together than they were in 1958. And then there was the service. In 1958, stewardesses could bring things to you fast – drinks, blankets, plates, knives, forks, napkins, food…even in “coach” the service was great by comparison to today. Today stewardesses cannot bring you anything, period. And so the uneven course of progress proceeds.

I think about the different members of my family…what they did during their life…what I did during my life…what they might think of today.

My father was an idealist and a mail order man…the two were not always compatible. This is a picture of him when was still quite young and idealistic before going on to be a marketing man.

Of all my family members, I would love to have conversation with my father about what he might think of today. He predicted to me and my brother in 1993 that the internet would change everything. And surely he was right, but surely he would surprised by the changes the internet has brought.

“When are you going to get on that goddamn internet?”, he would say once the first few people got on it.

“It is the new Western Union, it is the new telephone, it is the new TV”, even in the middle 90s, my father knew the internet would change all.

And so it did, but change came in many ways. I think my father would have surprised by its different mutations…perhaps, in the same way we are surprised about the many mutations of the Coronavirus.

I doubt that my father would foreseen the entire social media scene that has evolved …Facebook… Twitter… InstaGram… Left and Right Wing Websites …misinformation …disinformation … gay pride … transgender rights … new age cures … pandemic statistics … Capital riots … instant answers to new and bizarre questions … a hodge-pudge of commercial claims, goods for all, hopes for sale, fury for the furious, promises of tranquility and peace of mind for those on the elusive search for tranquility.

Indeed, he would have been surprised in many ways the internet has evolved and in the many ways governments and financial institutions and media outlets and pornography and truth and myth and everything between has spun out onto the digital universe. How much is essential to modern life, how much is worthless, how much is useful? Truly there are many sides to the internet and many questions it poses.

Thinking of what other family members might make of these new times. My uncle, Hamilton Hoge, started a company called U.S Television and I think he would also be surprised by the present times. He is in the family picture at the top of this blog story just to right of my father and mother. He was a marine who almost was sent off to storm Japan. A million men was the estimate of how many would be lost in the effort to invade Japan, but it never happened. Truman dropped the big one on Hiroshima and another big one Nagasaki and hundreds of thousand died in each city in minutes. And then the Japanese surrendered and the war was ended. My uncle got to keep his uniform, but he never had to wear it in combat.

After the war he came back and started a television company and like Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront”, he could have been a contender. But that was not be. My uncle Hamilton nevertheless had some interesting views on the future of newspapers. He thought everyone would have printer on the top of their TV and they would print out their personal newspaper whenever the desire to do so struck them. That kinda happened or at least some parts of that are in place today.

Today, we do not remember much about World War II or The Great Depression or World I or the Pandemic that came at the end of WWI. My uncles and father were born either before World War I or during World War I and they grew up in The Roaring Twenties and lived through The Great Depression and World War II. They got see and live through periods of war, peace, depression and prosperity that were interlaced with booms and busts and smaller regional wars.

My uncle Hamilton felt the Vietnam War was a war we should have finished. We should have won…it was a lack of will, he said, that we lost. My father did not agree, he felt it was a sad interlude of history. I felt it was a mistake and stain on our history.

We are presently in the process of disengaging ourselves from another regional war. The Present President has ordered the departure of all American troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. The military experts, the politicians, the pundits, the conservatives, the liberal and the biased…all are offering their instant analysis of that. Most say it is a mistake, some say it is a great deed and many offer a kaleidoscope of opinions in between.

I think of my great, great, great uncle, Andrew Shewan, who sailed in clipper ships from Scotland and England in the 1840s, 1850s and 1860s across the Atlantic, around South America, across the Pacific Ocean to Australia, India, Hong Kong, Shanghai and many other Asian ports while trading goods for tea. What were his thoughts of his world and what would his thoughts be of this world…that is a mystery that time cannot undo.

You can only imagine what thoughts might be going his head as he left Scotland at the age of 23 as 1st Mate of one the world’s greatest and fastest clipper ships in the world, the “Norman Court”. He must have been a young and vibrant man. Andrew Shewan sailed repeatedly around the world from 1840s to the 1860s. What did he think of the new worlds he saw…South America, Pacific Islands, Australia, Indonesia, India and, of course, China? And what might he think of those same worlds in this digital age?

And on those trips around the world what did he bring and what did he take away? That is a complicated question and I cannot know the answer. I do know what he brought back tea, but what did he bring? I do know he went to India often before going to China. Yes, what did he bring and what did he take away?

Andrew Shewan was moral man, a long married man, a family man. He wrote a book called “The Great Days of Sail” published in 1923, just before his death. He lived a long life. He was, I believe, happily married, for over 60 years. He had great pride about sailing clipper ships around the world and I imagine it must been one of the most exciting, most demanding jobs on the planet. Imagine sailing at 20 knots per hour across the Pacific Ocean through seas and weather conditions experienced by few humans in what was then one of the fastest ships on the planet. It must not have been too different from being an astronaut today.

But what he bring and and what did he take away? Iron nails and knives from Scotland and England, Molasses and rum from the Caribbean, and, of course, supplies of food, fruits and drink for months at a time. And why did he go to India? I have seen the logs of some of the journeys he took and yes he did go to India, but why? Could it be he traded the iron nails and knives for rum and molasses and the rum and molasses for opium? Could it be he brought the opium to China and traded the opium for silver and then traded the silver for tea? I do not know, but that was how many clipper ships conducted their trade.

Imagine my great, great, great uncle setting out as the first mate at age 23 from England with his father, the Captain of one the great clipper ships of its time, The Norman Court. Imagine his father takes ill after two days at sea and father and son realize the father is dying. Imagine father and son, talking about what to do…abandon the journey, return to port and quit the trip? Father and son talked it over. Yes, they did return to port. The father disembarked, the son remained on board. They said their goodbyes and the son sailed to China, the first mate now a captain, responsible all goods and all souls on board, 22 other men now under his command at the age of 23.

Yes, it must have been with heavy mixed emotions when father and son parted company and no doubt the crew of 22 men also had doubts and emotions about the journey that were undertaking. My great, great, great uncle completed the journey at the helm of his 192’ long by 22’ wide clipper ship. He described coming through the gales of wind, 50 to 60 miles an hour, crashing through waves 30 to 60 feet, with each wave surging across the deck and forecastle, swiping it clean of any loose belongings…sailing at 20 to 22 knots for days at a time…dark and gray gale winds howling during the day, pitch black and boiling seas and ever roaring winds during the night.

He said that each time his ship hit a wave in those conditions, the entire ship would vibrate and make a humming sound like a tuning fork.

I suppose his thoughts at such times were a strange mixture of terror, exhilaration and ecstasy. Few on the planet could relate to his experiences…then or today.

I mention the above because I feel they are related to the here and now. When my great, great, great uncle sailed to China that Empire had already faded and fallen victim to the greater powers of Europeans and Americans. Today, the wheel of history has rolled on and China has regained its Empire, but it has not forgotten what the Western World did to it. And so the tables have changed. England is no longer an Empire. Germany and France are no longer empires. America has already had its century of Manifest Destiny, Empire and world dominance. The colonies around the world that once made Western countries rich and powerful are no longer, but the memory of what happened remains.

We cannot step into the future without treading through the past. Those who are stepping ahead often forget where those before them have trod, but the past is inseparable from future. In one way or another, it is all connected.

This leads me to think of my great grandfather, Joseph Milton Cunningham, attorney general of Louisiana. He wrote the brief for the State of Louisiana defending the decision of Plessy v. Ferguson. My great grandfather’s legal brief was reviewed by the Supreme Court in 1898 and the Supreme upheld my Great Grandfather’s arguments and the earlier decision rendered by courts in Louisiana. And the result of that case and the Supreme Court Decision, was school segregation and a reversal of some of the results of the Civil War.

I am not proud of that although I am quite sure that my great grandfather felt that he did the right thing. And on his behalf, it must be said that he was considered to be a highly respected attorney who did many good things for the State of Louisiana. That is part of this country’s history and the Supreme Court ruling that agreed with my Great Grandfather’s legal brief, affected the next 90 or so years of American history. Yes, we cannot disengage ourselves from our history. We are all part of our own family’s history and every family’s past is interconnected with our country’s past, present and future.

My Grandmother, Sidney Cecile Cunningham Hoge, was daughter to Joseph Milton Cunningham. She is in the picture at the top of this blog story, in the bottom row, sitting on the right of my grandfather. She grew up on a 5,000 acre plantation that was still tilled and tended by the descendants of former slaves of my great grandfather and his father. Sidney Cecile was a very prejudiced woman, but also a very strict and strong and strangely moral person. Of course, morality is often in the eye of the beholder. Still, she had large family and many friends and she was highly respected.

And of course, Sidney Cecile was the reason that my father and I inherited our first and second names…Cecil Cunningham. She was very upset that her sons were never able to make sufficient money to support her in the way she expected to be supported in her old age.

“Life,” she said, “is so unfair.

“They found oil on the plantation next door and few years later they found oil on the plantation on the other side of our plantation, but they never, never found oil on our plantation. And we had the largest plantation. Life is just so unfair.”

Years later she told me she was disappointed in the fact that her sons never made enough money to support her in the style she expected.

“Life is so unfair,” she would say again in her slow New Orleans lilting drawl, “Why my husband, Huber, had such good prospects. And for many years we had a fine life with nice apartments in the city and fine houses to go to in the summer, but then that damned depression came and my poor husband lost everything. But I thought my boys were growing, surely they would have good prospects, surely they will find a way to support me in the manner I have always expected, but that never happened.”

It would seem unfairness is also in eye of the beholder.

Personally, I thought her sons did a pretty good job of taking care of my grandmother. Admittedly, they had to work through the damned depression and truly times were tough, but my uncle went on found a TV company, which was a contender for a while, and my father went on to restart my grandfather’s old advertising company and he passed through prosperous and not so prosperous times and still was able to send me to various boarding schools and college and help support my grandmother and various other members of our family.

And as I have written, our four families, 3 brothers and a sister, were able to collectively hold the greater family together, have apartments in city and pool funds for a collective summers in some pretty nice houses in Southampton. And my grandmother Sidney Cecile was able to reap the rewards of that lifestyle still associating with society folks and keeping up appearances, even if their wealth was not so deep and long.

My other grandmother with my mother and aunt. I never met her but I did learn something about her.

I never met my mother’s mother and so I don’t know what she thought of the times she was in or would think of the times we are in. She married my other grandfather who was a very rich guy at the time. That marriage did not work out and my grandmother went off to the Riviera in search of happier life. It was not to be…she died in her thirties, a victim of dwindling funds and too many parties.

My grandfather also did not fair well. He sold Shewan Shipyards, at one time the largest shipyard in America, to Bethlehem Steel for $15,000,000. That was a lot of money in those days before taxes, but my grandfather gave away some of it to his sisters and spent the rest of it on himself, gradually selling off works of art that in earlier years he had purchased. So what comes sometimes goes.

I still have a magnificent 100 + year old desk, a marble top table from the time of Louis XIV and a quite beautiful portrait of my mother done in 1920…so all was not lost and the connection with past and present is always there.

Moses Drury Hoge, another great, great, great uncle, was preacher to Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Army. He was just one in a long line of Hoge family preachers from Virginia.

I wonder what my great, great, great uncle, Moses Drury Hoge would have thought of these times and the recent discovery by many Americans that were people in America’s past who owned slaves and some of those people actually had statues erected to them.

Moses Hoge was the official minister to the Confederate Army. He had a church in Richmond Virginia and he preached to Jefferson Davis himself. So Moses was somewhat conflicted. He did not believe in slavery although in fact he owned 3 slaves. They came to him from his wife, so he did not actually buy the slaves. Nevertheless, Moses thought slavery was regrettable and before the war he was not for slavery, even if he was not against slavery.

But the carnage of the war, the many friends and family members that he lost, hardened his opinion and in the end, he definitely felt that the cause of the South was right and true and the principle of States Rights should be upheld. Of course, history moved in a way contrary to that and after the war he accepted the fact that the South had lost and slavery was wrong. But he could not bear not to pay tribute to some of the former leaders of the Civil War.

After the Civil War was completed and the South was vanquished, he gave a speech to 10,000 Richmond residents on behalf of Stonewall Jackson citing Stonewall’s bravery when he served the South and faced his death. In doing so, Moses was personally responsible in having a statue set up in Richmond commemorating the faithful service and bravery of Stonewall Jackson. I believe that statue has been recently torn down and so world moves on and looks at things differently.

It would be my guess that my great, great, great uncle would not be happy about that, but that is only a guess. Moses Hoge went on to live another 34 years after the Civil War. He became a quite prominent Presbyterian minister, touring Europe, talking and meeting with other high church officials. In truth, he was a prominent church minister before the Civil War, but that event temporarily diminished his career. Moses then went on to reinstate himself among church officials and become quite a prominent force in the Presbyterian Church. His life ended strangely in New York City when he crossed the path of a trolley car.

Princess Olga Obolensky before the Russian Revolution, with uncle Ivan.

I am thinking of another relative, my great aunt Princess Olga Obolensky. In truth, she is only a relative by marriage. My true aunt, Barbara Hoge, married Ivan Obolensky, Olga’s son. Olga was a princess and she grew up in the court of Czar Nicholas, but at the age of 23 the Russian Revolution came along and her life took a drastic turn. She was able to smuggle her two sons out of Russia shortly after the beginning of the Revolution, but after that things got really tough. Her life went from luxury and privilege to poverty and prison and then to more poverty and near death.

In the end, she made her way out of Russia and then she found her way to Berlin. That was like going from the frying pan to the fire because Berlin at that time was being bombed everyday by allied forces. Strangely, she stayed 3 blocks from where my future mother in law was living. They never met in Berlin, but many years later, my mother in law met my great aunt in America. Such is the strange motions of time and history and happenstance.

It was Olga Obolensky who first suggested I should write a book about my family. Well, this is not a book, this is a blog, but it does cover some of the bases.

I met Olga Obolensky in New York City when I got to meet my new uncle, Ivan. She had a elegant and stentorian voice, loud, authoritative and lilting. She would always remind me of my mother’s elegance.

“Your mother does not enter a room,” Olga would say, “She makes an entrance and when she comes in, all heads turn.”

I think that is pretty nice thing to say about anybody. Olga was very obsessed with appearances and it was always true that she never lost the sense that she was still a princess. Surely, her view of this world could be useful at this time. I am not sure she would be impressed by our present progress or our present sense of elegance.

I am pretty sure she would think of the Pandemic as a sad time when sense of dress and decorum have been lost. But she would know about that, having spent time in prison, time trying to escape Soviet officials, time in a Communist hospital system in a brain-numbing job as a hospital director in a squalid Soviet city being bombed and invaded by Germans.

Olga Obolensky saw it all from the court and time of the Czar to the Russian Revolution to war plagued Europe to a kind of rebirth in America.

New York City had a formidable collection of Russian aristocrats, some impoverished and in-prisoned by their fate, some who cruised through this world seemingly untouched by bad luck.

Vladdy, Ivan and Serge Obolensky, in front the Southampton Bathing Corporation, aka The Beach Club. These were some new relatives who came by way of my aunt Barbara’s marriage to Ivan Obolensky.

One such person was Olga’s uncle, Serge Obolensky. He married in 1916 Catherine Alexandrovna Yurievskaya, the youngest daughter of Czar Alexander II. So, you can say he started out pretty high in life. He left Russia just in time to miss the Russian Revolution. In 1924, he married Alice Astor, daughter of John Jacob Astor. So, you can say he landed safely on his feet. Eventually, he came to U.S. with whole bunch of other Russians and they all settled in New York City.

Because I had a new Russian uncle, I came meet of these Russian ex aristocrats. I was very young at the time and I did not fully understand who they all were or their many varied histories. What I could understand was that some them faired far better than others. And I suppose all them would have different and conflicting views of what is happening in this time or what happened in their time. Certainly, the Russian Revolution changed their lives, just as The Depression changed my father’s and his generation’s life and, perhaps, just as The Pandemic is presently changing our lives. Of course, we know what transpired during their lives. We are yet to fully understand what will transpire during our lives.

This is a colored photo of my mother at a pretty young age. The story about this photo is that some South American dictator was visiting my grandfather. For what reason I know not…perhaps getting his yacht reburished, perhaps, refitting his navy. My grandfather could handle either job. Anyway, the South American leader brought some special Spanish clothes for my mother and my young mother tried them on and the result was this picture which hangs in my bedroom. This same photo also hangs in the Library of Congress. I am guessing my mother was a pretty sassy lass.

I think of my mother often. I really do not remember all the things she told me. I remember riding around in taxi cabs with her, charging all over Manhattan. I remember her dragging me into Cartier’s to see some silverware and jewelry, into Zsa Zsa and Magda Gabor’s jewelry store to see more jewelry. I remember tagging along when she went with friends to the bar at the Carlyle, I remember going to The Stork Club with my father and mother. I always got to take away one of the miniature wooden storks with miniature glass stem vases that always held a rose.

My mother liked “creme de menthe” – a drink she first acquired a taste for in France. Her life must have been strange, coming from a background of great wealth, growing up on yachts and in 5 houses around the world. How she came to marry my father is a mystery. He was a man who was interested in making a mark in the world and he hoped to make a lot of money. I don’t think my mother was impressed. She just wanted live her life in comfort and style…ride horses, live a simple, but elegant life. Money meant nothing to her.

She was born in 1919. She married my father in 1941 and she died in 1963. Just 44 years old, a victim in the end of alcohol, cigarettes, car collisions and cancer. What she could have been no one knows. I do know she was both an Olympic Class horse woman and an Olympic class swimmer. I do remember her taking me to the Squadron A Armory on 94th and 95th between Madison and Park Avenues. There we watched horse jumping exhibitions and polo games. My mother loved horses. I never could get enthusiastic about that. It seemed dangerous to me and that was confirmed when I fell off of horses a couple of times. I guess I was a disappointment to my mother…at least in regard to horses.

What she might think of the last 15 years we have just gone through, with the Great Recession, the great recovery, the Great Pandemic and the Great Recession again and the many unknown unknowables, all that is a mystery. Surely, her time was also topsy turvy, born at the end of World War I, with her childhood in the Roaring Twenties and her twenties starting with Prohibition and the Great Depression, only to be ended by World War II. And after the war, the Cold War, the great scare about Nuclear War, Joe McCarthy and the dread Communists. Yes, there had to be a lot of confusion in the 44 years of her life.

My mother thought rock and roll was an abomination. I remember her playing old 78 records of her favorite big bands and singers from the 30s and 40s. She was convinced, like Bing Crosby, that there would return to that kind of music. Both Bing Crosby and my mother were disappointed in that hope. A new kind of music welled up out the youth of my generation and big comeback did not come back. All things pass away as Mr. Harrison says. And so it was for her.

I think there is more to tell about my strange and quirky family. Some of us have faired badly and some of us have done pretty well. It is hard to say what is a true success. If I had to name something…it would be to live happily within yourself and within your family, to love your wife, to like what you do and do what you like. I do not know whether it was Wilbur Wright or Orville Wright, but one of those two said, if you can support yourself and not be burden to your family, then you are success. I suppose that also is a good definition.

I will continue on with this blog. For those who might want more details about my family, please refer to the many stories on this blog site.

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The Twenties Pick Up Speed

May, 2021 – A Cloud Bank Began to Move Across What Looked Like Blue Skies

By Cecil Hoge

Something is happening here. But what it is ain’t clear. We have a new President. He seems to be concentrated on reversing everything that the past President did. The Past President, by the way, concentrated on reversing everything his predecessor did. So, now we have a tradition of Presidential Reversal. The New Edict: Do the opposite of what your predecessor did.

In a way, that makes things simple: you just to reverse whatever the previous guy did. Your platform for the next election is set. All you have to do is promise the opposite of the person before you. In this system, there seems no middle way. Rather, it is like a light switch going on and off…today no immigrants, tomorrow, immigrants come what may, today tax relief for the rich, tomorrow tax relief for the poor, today get rid of socialized healthcare, tomorrow expand socialized healthcare.

But even these differences are not very clear, because there are some subtle exceptions. It seems both of the last 2 Presidents think tariffs are good…at least, tariffs on China. Both the new guy and old guy agree that the guy before them left them an empty chest and a stack of problems that was created by their previous predecessor. Of course, they disagree on what problems each former President left.

The young 2020s are beset by an array of problems…some of which are new and unique, some of which are as old as the republic itself, some of which are as old as humanity itself. We are still dealing with the fallout of the country beginning with the institution of slavery. We are still dealing with the history that immigrant Europeans took over lands formerly occupied by Native Americans. We are still dealing with the battle between States’ rights and Federal rights. We are still dealing with free speech and what that entails. We are still dealing with myths and theories of conspiracies. We are still arguing over what is true and what is not.

At the same time we are still in the midst of a Worldwide Pandemic. An interesting fact that should catch somebody’s attention is that there have been more cases and deaths worldwide from the Pandemic in the first 6 months of this year than there have been cases and deaths worldwide in all 12 months of last year. As I write these lines we are passing through the 4th of July Weekend, our present President is getting ready to celebrate what he calls “Independence” from the virus (aka Coronavirus, aka Covid). And while there are many reasons to be grateful about the progress against the virus in this country, there are also some outstanding concerns that may make that celebration premature.

This is not the first or the last plague to sweep across different parts of the world, but this Pandemic is truly unique in its own way. It is true that at the end of World War I there was a similar Pandemic that swept across the world. It is true that after that Pandemic, the memory of the spread of that disease and war that had just ended faded fast and the 1920s became what was called The Roaring 20s. And so, shortly after World War I and the 1918/1919 Pandemic, the 1920s proceeded in a gay and vibrant manner.

It is thought by many a pundit that such will be the case in the 2020s. And so, all the economic gurus, all the stock market mavens, all the business billionaires, all the respected financial observers are predicting boom times ahead for foreseeable future…whatever that may be. And yes, the assumption is the same presumption as our present President – we have achieved “independence” from the Pandemic. With that presumption, there is this belief that “normal times” are just around the corner.

We now have inoculated more than 60% of our population with one vaccine dose or more. The economy is blasting ahead…but the upturn is from the lows of the Pandemic and not above the previous economic activity before the Pandemic. The number of people getting jobs is increasing rapidly. Restaurants, bars, hotels are welcoming people back. And yet, and yet, some strange things abide. We are still far short of the economic and employment levels achieved before the Pandemic.

And while the American public seems inclined to accept that Coronavirus as a thing of the past, the Coronavirus does not seem inclined to agree. Instead, it hesitates and mutates and pops up with surprising virulence in other parts of the world just as it seems to diminish and become more controllable here.

But controlling the Pandemic in the U.S. and having it rise up in other parts of the world is not the same as having it disappear and be forgotten. It is true that the number cases, hospitalizations and deaths have declined rapidly in this country in the last several months. Yet it is pretty hard to say it is under control – even now, 5,000 to 20,000 cases are being announced each day and while that is a lot less than this winter, it is not that much less than same time last year.

There is a definite improvement in the trajectory of the Coronavirus as can be seen by this chart, courtesy of the Washington Post. And as you can tell, cases are now lower this June and early July than they were last June and early July. But as you can also tell from this chart, cases have started to tick upward ever so slightly.

There are big differences this year. About 47% of the population has received both doses of the vaccine (the full course needed for full protection) and over 60% plus has had at least one dose. There have been some Snafus with the vaccines. Our present President had hoped 70% of all Americans would have had at least one dose of at least one the 2 vaccines in use. That did not happen, but we came mighty close.

More concerning is the fact that new variants of the Coronavirus have popped up – the Alpha virus, the Delta Virus, the Delta Plus virus. So it is obvious that just as we have a plan to protect our population against the virus, the virus has a plan to infect our population anyway. And this might be considered to be simple evolution in motion.

More concerning still is that the latest versions of virus are succeeding in becoming the most deadly, the most infectious and most dominant versions of the virus. Just as we are developing better pharmaceutical solutions to protect against the virus, the virus is mutating into more infectious and deadly versions of itself to infect people.

And it should be noted, just as we have been quite successful in reducing the present number of cases here, the Coronavirus has been successful infecting and killing more people than ever in other parts of the world. So our victory against this particular Pandemic can hardly be declared final. It may be that defeat the virus is just around the corner, but it also may be that virus is just about to sprout up again in the good old USA.

And so the new normal is not the old normal. And while it is true that the 2020s have begun to pick up speed, it is premature to say that the 2020s have reached the stage of roaring. To be sure, things are happening. Lumber prices for houses exploded in ways never before seen and now have recently retrenched some portion of their upward motion. Copper, that ancient commodity that has been so useful to the many purposes of humanity, whether to make brass, electrical wiring, jewelry, tools or pipes, has also exploded in price and is still happily in the stratosphere.

It is thought by the Pundits and the Mavens and the Experts and most Economists and the Fed that this explosion of prices is but a temporary blip that will soon pass away. All think we will soon be roaring along with little inflation.

Surely, prices have begun to roar. Many commodities and materials are also exploding in price. So the issue of fast rising prices is spread across almost all materials that are used to make things. Other prices, food, gas, heating, air conditioning, rent, house buying and transportation are going up rapidly. Getting containers to ship goods to the States is difficult and frustrating- it sometimes necessary to wait several weeks just locate a container and several weeks more get it on a ship.

And within this period of rising prosperity there are many shortages of different goods and many delays in getting those goods shipped from one place to another.

So something strange is happening, something hard to quantify. This is not my father’s Roaring Twenties. I remember what he had to say about that…it was a fun and exciting time…the alcohol flowed, the stocks roared and the Pierce Arrows, the Duesenburgs, the Packards reigned the highways. The parties were grand and the more Prohibition was ostensibly enforced, the more alcohol was indulged in.

All the economic pundits tell us another Roaring Twenties boom is upon us and it will last as far as the eye can see. Growth will be the new permanent condition. But somehow it feels as if we are not quite there.

This week new unemployment numbers are announced for June. And happily the numbers showed a strong increase in the number of people getting jobs. 850,000 people found jobs this last month, but strangely the percentage of unemployment increased in this country from 5.8% to 5.9%. Go figure. It would seem that the more people who get jobs, the more people who want jobs and so the percentage of unemployed to those wanting employment actually increased.

Heavens to Purgatroid, what does that mean? Something does not jive.

But do the stock markets care? No way, Jose. They blew it off and went on to higher highs because that is what the markets have been doing…going on to higher highs just like prices of just about everything. The pundits come out one and all and say, it is obvious the markets will go higher! Bonds, that former safe investment that used provide the elderly and the cautious with some reliable returns offer no returns that can outrun the debilitating effects of inflation. So we must invest safely in stocks…they are insurance in these fast moving times. And besides, the market mavens add, The Fed is your Friend.

I have to say I am agnostic about these opinions. Anyway, I feel I gamble enough in my businesses so I am not going to take the time to learn about gambling on some smart stock investments.

Speaking of higher highs, New York State has recently officially legalized Marijuana. Truly happy days here again. A more cynical person might think the Governor of New York was looking to divert his constituents from the fact that he had bad habit of hitting on young ladies. What better diversion than to legalize pot? But there is a complication – there always is, you know – you cannot buy Marijuana yet – at least, you cannot buy it legally. The State has to figure out how to maximize taxes from it and that will apparently take a year. In the meantime, you can smoke it and plant it, if you can find dealer to sell you the weed and the seed.

So big things are happening in the 2020s.

But all is not the same. Many of us now still work at home and some of us like that and some do not.

I spend two days working in my office and three days working from home. And when I work at home that allows me to schedule paddles or rows around the tides at my house – sea water is in my backyard twice day for 8 hours at a time and out for 4 hours at time. And so by working around my office and home schedules I manage to get out on the water 3 to 5 times a week, depending on weather and obligations.

Recently, I have noticed some changes on the waterways where I paddle, row or motor. This year there is a new, more prolific crop of algae about my bays. It is thicker and denser than last year’s variety. I am not a marine biologist, but I would guess a new species of algae has come town with thicker and denser strands that hold together as one great clump. When your paddle or oar hits one these dense clumps of green/brown algae it gets stuck. You have to maneuver your paddle or oar to carefully disengage. That doesn’t bother me. Last year I developed quite good disengagement skills and those skills still work with this year’s crop.

I am not quite sure what happens when one of our local knee boarders or water skiers whiz by at 30 mph+ being towed by their magnificent MasterCraft. I imagine when they hit one of these clumps they go for an unexpected ride and get the extra thrill of flying through air 20 feet before splashing down in the not so clean bay water. To each his own.

But the presence more algae and more pollution is not all I have noticed. It seems to me that the tidal currents in our 4 bays are running faster and stronger. I cite as example of this that I can now see tidal strong currents with running waves being created by the outflow or inflow of the tide. In the 40 plus years I have lived on these bays, I have not seen that kind of visible current in these bays. So I can only wonder: what is going on?

No matter, I watch the currents, paddle the waters and go my way…it is still a wondrous privilege to paddle, row or motor on the waters of the Seven Seas.

My wife spends her time reading, planting vegetables and flowers and fruits, keeping the house going. The garden is a big production each spring and summer. I am not the best helper, but I do bring 20 or so 40 lbs. bags of garden soil each year, spread them around and aid in the planting of various fruits and vegetables. My wife is the main boss in that department. I just work around edges because frankly, I am more of a hunter gatherer than a farmer, but my little efforts do aid her bigger efforts and strawberries and eggplants and tomatoes and asparagus and sweet potatoes and various herbs (not the above mentioned marijuana) are the results of her efforts.

My hybrid office/home work schedule allows us to take lunches with my wife at the local beach one or two days each week overlooking Long Island Sound. We pack simple sandwiches and simple beverages, drive to the beach and watch the scene of people walking, exercising, sunning, picnicking, enjoying the scenery like us, some wearing masks, most not now. Recently, because the mask regulations have been reduced, we also head to a local restaurant and have lunch or dinner once or twice a week. It is not bad way to pass through the Pandemic.

My brother and I earlier this year, when masks were in fashion and warm weather was not, testing a prototype of a larger FastCat to be introduced in 2022

In my spare time, I work on various new inflatable prototypes and work on new designs. I do not think of designing inflatable boats or other products as work because I truly like to do it. And surprisingly, the older I get, the more new designs I seem to produce. This year I introduced new boat called the Sea Eagle FastCat 12. Now I am working on a larger model of that – see the picture above.

The first shipment of FastCat 12s, which were just introduced in May, was sold out before it arrived. The second shipment is already partially sold out and since it only arrives early next month, I am guessing that shipment will also be sold out before it arrives. It is not a terrible problem, but I do look to the day when we catch up with demand and actually have stock on hand.

FastCat 12s have been caught up in the worldwide logistical problems that are afflicting overseas production and present day shipping. They were designed by me and are made in Korea. The production was slowed by high demand for materials, inflatable boat parts and accessories. That resulted in long waiting times for delivery of materials and that resulted in the boats being produced later than they were scheduled to be produced. It is a common problem these days.

So, both production runs were delayed. The first production was supposed to be produced and shipped December (2020) and arrive in February 2021. That did not happen. Production of both the first and second productions were held up by lack materials and then both the first and second shipments were delayed, first because containers in Korea were not available and then because container ships were not available to take them to the States.

Welcome to the new world of delayed everything.

In short, materials/metals/commodities, inflatable boat materials are hard to come by, production is difficult to schedule, and inevitably, there are multiple delays in shipping and delays in receiving. The FastCats, as mentioned above were supposed to be here in February. Instead they arrived at the end of May. No matter, we have been blessed paradoxically with booming sales even as we struggle to keep up with the many things people demand . This situation is true in both our fishing lure business and our inflatable boat business.

Two Guys in Canada testing out an early prototype of our larger Travel Canoe. This prototype has a ways to go, but we intend to introduce this new model in March of 2022

I am presently finishing up with 2 new models…a larger FastCat and a larger Travel Canoe. The Travel Canoe was a product I designed about 5 years ago and have a patent on. The first year of sales was tiny…less than a 100 units. But the selling price was quite high – $2,000 – so it seemed valuable to continue. The first two years we offered this product with inflatable canoe seats…they were very comfortable, but not appealing to canoe enthusiasts who were used to and who preferred wood/mesh seats. In those two years the sales gradually and steadily increased. I surmised the gradual sales increase was a problem about seats.

At the end of 2019 I went off to Korea on one of my many Asian trips and redesigned the Travel Canoe to have wood/mesh seats. My theory was most canoeists would prefer traditional wood/mesh seats. And that proved to be true, I think.

Then the Pandemic came and with that tragedy came a strange new interest in inflatable kayaks, Travel Canoes and anything outdoors, so sales doubled last year and sales are way up again this year. So, my idea that wood/mesh seats would double sales might have been true. Of course, it also might have been the strange and strong new interest in outdoor goods driven by the Pandemic.

Indeed, it is strange to think, as hotel and airlines and restaurants and bars and stadiums and theaters struggled to survive, we were blessed with this new found interest in outdoor activities. The reason, of course, was clear – you can solo distance outdoors pretty safely and people figured that out real quick.

It is kind of strange that when I was in Korea, I predicted to my supplier that we might double our Travel Canoe sales just because of offering wood/mesh seats instead of inflatable seats. I am sure my supplier thought there was a bit of blue sky in that prediction. Anyway, the sales did more than double, but in truth, I cannot say whether it was my new wood/mesh seats or the Pandemic that made that happen. No matter, I will happily take the credit.

Back to designing inflatable boats and new models, so this spring, I have been concerned on creating these two larger models – a larger FastCat and a larger Travel Canoe. The larger FastCat takes up to a 20 hp motor and goes 22 mph with 3 people. It is a kind hybrid pontoon boat. Pontoons boats account for almost 50% of the total rigid boat market in the United States. Of course, my larger FastCat is considerably smaller than a lot of cruise about, cocktail pontoon boats. And it is also as lot cheaper.

This introduces a theory I have: I think America is divided between people who can afford to buy a rigid boat – I guess 30% – and people who cannot – I guess 70%. Consider the fact that almost any rigid boat these days costs $30,000 or more. And if you look at the general average cost of boats, more is an understatement. Because the average may be much closer to $100,000 or $200,00 when you take into account everything from lowly 14’ aluminum duck boats to billionaire boy toys measuring 350 feet or so. Yup, rigid boats can be mighty expensive and that don’t begin to include that actual cost of maintaining, docking, launching and storing such things.

So, in my mind, I produce the only kind of boats that the majority of Americans can afford. And yes, some of the products we sell are expensive compared to other inflatable boats, but way cheap when compared to the rigid alternatives. So, I think I am in the right place at the right time.

Back to the models and explaining how designing them occupies time and mind. The larger Travel Canoe will be designed to carry more stuff, to run whitewater rivers, to take enough stuff to camp for weeks along a river or on an island in a lake or bay. So you could say that product is geared to a different segment of the market our 16’ Travel Canoe is after. The 16’ Travel Canoe is more like a day to week or so paddling canoe that fits in your car trunk.

To create these two new models takes a lot of time. I make simple drawings on my iPad showing dimensions and angles and views…top, side and bottom. I send them off to one of my suppliers and ask if they think can make that type of product – each product has different design needs, different materials, different construction techniques and each supplier has different manufacturing skills. If they say yes, they think they can make it, I ask them to make one or two prototypes from my drawings. When we get them, we test them – usually they work in some ways and don’t work in other ways. We then consider other changes to remake or improve them. I make more drawings and we make one or two more prototypes to see if were are getting close.

If we are getting close that is the time my brother starts getting interested in the project. He then makes new drawings in a much more sophisticated drawing program that I have no idea how to use. Anyway, that takes a lot more time, but it produces 3D views and true CAD drawings that are far more precise than what I can do. Then and only then, if all goes well, we issue an order for a production of 50 or more and an order to make production prototype for approval of final production.

As you may or may not imagine, it is a long process, usually at least 6 months to 12 months from the time of my first drawing to the time of the product on sale. But my part, making first drawings and getting first prototypes made never seems like work. For me it is pure pleasure because I feel I am developing things that never existed before. So, all through the Pandemic I had this kind of work and pleasure to pursue and that made the time easy to pass and the concerns of disease and danger and being closed in by the Pandemic much, much less. I can say I have been truly lucky in that respect.

Through all of the last year and half I always have the almost daily ability to walk out into my yard down to my dock and get on a boat and paddle or row or motor out. So I have been truly lucky in this strange period of flux and disease and opportunity, with hopes now of better times and still looming threats and doubts that all is not right, all is not yet booming, yet all is something new and unknown and uncharted.

The 4th of July, 2021, Port Jefferson Harbor just before the onset of fireworks. Picture taken from my new FastCat 14 prototype.

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It Was the Music – Volume 5 – From College Graduate to Clam Digger to Newspaper Man – 1967-1968

This was the house that Rich Miller and I retired to after graduation from the University of Virginia. You can read more about the Zirinsky House in my blog story appropriately called The Zirinsky House.

By Cecil Hoge

In this present time of worldwide pandemic, shifting political tides, disinformation, misinformation, high unemployment, impeachments, fake news and stock market speculation, I thought I might return to an earlier time when things were simpler and choices were easier. At least, they seemed easier at the time. So I am continuing my blog series – “It Was The Music” and going back to 1967. This one is Volume #5 of the series.

In the years I had spent in college, I had developed a greater and greater appreciation of music. My appreciation was not focused on the lofty heights of classical music or opera. No, my interests were in popular music. More specifically, in folk and rock music. Certain songs would come out and you would hear them on a radio in car or someone in my fraternity would have a new album and there would be one song playing that would infect and almost permanently sear into your brain. Somehow those songs became associated with a certain moment or a certain mood of the time. “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harem was one of those songs. Certain words and phrases clawed into my mind:

The room was humming harder

As the ceiling flew away

When we called out for a drink

The waiter brought a tray

And so it was that later

As the Miller told his tale

That her face, at first just ghostly

Turned a whiter shade of pale

I did not know it at the time, but the lyrics above were influenced by certain drugs. My colleagues and I were into beer and while the influence of drugs was being discussed and reported at the time, the actual drugs had not made their way into our fraternity house. That changed one or two years after I left college, but at the time we were just awestruck by the new music that we were hearing. Of course, it was not just the words, it was the instruments that blended with the words to create a new mood and a new rhythm …haunting, doubting, beautiful, melodic and dangerous.

I, like many of my generation, was struck by the sudden emergence of new popular groups and the rise of The Beatles was a prime example of that. At first I thought of those 4 guys as just producing pleasant tunes for the ears of young teenybops – “Love Me Do”, “Please Please Me”, “She Loves You” – these songs seemed composed by teenagers, sung by teenagers, for teenagers. But as time passed and more albums came, I came to think that they were a much more complex band.

When I last posted “It Was The Music – Volume #4”, I had just managed to graduate from the University of Virginia. A few days before my graduation, The Beatles latest album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” had just come out. It was that surprising album that made me and many others think that The Beatles were much more than just four guys who could sing some pleasant melodies for teenybops. That album, far more complex and utterly surprising, made me think the Fab 4 really were Fab.

In my last 2 years of college I also developed a love/hate relationship with The Rolling Stones. At first I thought they were just some scruffy druggies with these hard and harsh sounding songs that made no attempt to sound pleasant or nice or kind. As time went on, I came to think of them as truly great. Their songs, while snarling, dissatisfied and dissatisfying, had a different and more dangerous take on the times…whether it be wishing to Paint It Black or dissatisfaction with the commercial world or fleeting, tender and passing moments of new relationships…they had a sense of frustration, anger and change that was in the air.

And of course, there was folk music which seemed to start out with the likes of Joan Baez on the banks of the Ohio only to develop into parables of truth from the likes of Mr. Bob Dylan. And it was Bob himself who shape-shifted from old and semi-pure folk fables to harsher electric chair truth serums. The music was changing rapidly in those days and it was new and evolving. It was, to quote some opening words from Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man”:

“Because something is happening here but you don’t know what that is…Do you, Mr. Jones?”

In the last year of my long and winding journey to graduation, my hastily chosen major was Philosophy. That choice had been necessary since I failed all the other humanitarian alternatives and I had rejected scientific, engineering and mathematical courses as outside of my wheelhouse. After 9 separate courses in Philosophy in the last year at The University, I emerged, ready for life, with a degree in that vague art.

To celebrate the occasion, I headed home with a small entourage – 3 fellow graduates from The University and a girlfriend…Miss Penny Zetterstrom.

I knew my life was at a turning point and soon I would have to decide on my path in this world, but I figured there was time for all that. So we headed to my family’s summer rental house a few days after graduation and a fine time we had. My girlfriend and I held hands, and together with my fellow graduates, we all went to the local discos and bars for dancing and celebrations, visited the Southampton Bathing Corporation for swimming and sunning and went to the Meadow Club for tennis and, as I said, we all had a fine time.

My fellow Virginia graduates could not help noticing that I had some drop dead beautiful female cousins who were living in the same house and who were kind enough to accompany us on some of our nighttime activities. At the time, they ranged in age from about 18 to 21, so the stars were aligned for my college buddies. However, my female cousins at this time had discovered new forms of mind stimulation, developing their own new boyfriends and theories on socially acceptable activities. At the time they were seriously involved in listening to the Doors, The Moody Blues and, of course, The Rolling Stones. So, while they were happy to run around with us for a day or two, they went their way and we went ours.

My girlfriend, Penny, could not help but be overwhelmed and taken by the beauty and style of Southampton. The high hedges, the big, sprawling “summer cottages”, the lush green lawns of the Meadow Club’s tennis courts, the nearby beaches all enthralled her. My family were blessed that summer because this was one of their more flush financial years and they had rented the Zirinsky House. That summer palace, shown in the painting above, had 13 or 14 bedrooms, a wrap around porch able to accommodate hundreds, about 3 acres of land and a cottage out back designed for young folks to disappear and do naughty things. And, as Mr. Dylan says, it was all good.

I Decide To Become a Clam Digger

They say all good things come an end and so it was that summer. Two of my college mates soon realized that they had scheduled appointments for real job interviews. Penny Zetterstrom, my beloved girlfriend, came to the sad realization that I was not prepared to marry her that summer and so she returned to Virginia to be a Super Woman in the future. That left Rich Miller and myself to cogitate on our our situations and ponder our options. Neither of us had the presence of mind to schedule potential work interviews, perhaps because we thought, after just completing the arduous work of getting college degrees, we should lay back for a while before doing anything rash.

And that is what we did for a week or so after my other good college buddies and girlfriend deserted us… while they went off to pursue actual careers and life style changes, we settled into a life of swimming, beaching, sunning and playing tennis. In the evenings we would return to the hacienda with a couple of six packs of the less expensive bubbly to properly consider our options. One thing became very clear… neither of us wanted to pursue anytime soon a responsible career… it was just too early to put on the harnesses of life. Another thing became clear… we were quickly running out money in our efforts to maintain a life of style and leisure.

We considered these problems for another one or two days, maintaining our healthy schedule of swimming and tennis during the day and not so healthy schedule of beer consumption during the evening. As the days passed and options available dwindled, a sudden inspiration came upon us one evening after several of the said beers.

“I own a boat,” I said.

“I own a motor,” Rich said.

We had been ruminating what a great thing it would be if we could remain in the Zirinsky House for the summer. To do that, we would have to find some form of employment. That was a serious concern on my part. I had actually never held real job before, other than occasionally helping out in my father’s factory/warehouse. I know that is shameful but it is the truth. It occurred to me during this conversation of boats and motors that many years ago as a young boy, I had learned to dig clams.

As the beers dwindled and our conversation became more focused and animated, Rich Miller took a quantum leap in logic and made the following suggestion:

“Why don’t we become clam diggers?”

The logic of that was overwhelming.

“That’s a cherry idea,” I said.

Rich put his hand to his chin and asked.

“What do we have to do to become clam diggers?”

That set off more thinking and the requirement for two more beers. I posited we probably would need a clam digging license. Where would we get that Rich queried. The Town Hall I said…because we are living in a rented house I could claim to be a resident.

What else would we need? Implements of the trade. What were those implements? We did not know. Then, if we get the boat, the motor, the license, the implements of the trade, where do we go?

Easy, I said, Shinnecock Bay. Then how would we sell the clams if we got the clams?

We had a lot of things to work out, but our minds were moving swiftly and so did the remaining beers.

The next few days, we were all about activity – I headed over to the Town Hall. I found out that it was all pretty simple. You just walk in, ask for the clam digger license form, fill it out and pay $25 bucks. The folks at the Town Hall were very kind and accommodating… they even told us about Ray the Clam Digger… he apparently made all the implements of the trade… baskets, graders and the all important clamrakes… he was in nearby Hampton Bays. So things began to come together.

The day after Rich headed to faraway New Jersey to retrieve the motor – a mighty 5hp Johnson. The day after that, Rich and I headed to Bellport to retrieve my 16’ boat.

This could have been Rich and I with our boat and motor – my 16’ boat was a lapstrake style craft, the motor shown here seems a little more powerful than the 5 hp Johnson Rich provided.

Well, as they say, the rest was history. Rich and I had a truly fantastic summer. We spent our days gathering one or two bushels of clams each and selling them that day to Catena’s, the local seafood market, at $32 a bushel. We spent the afternoons and evenings spending our hard-earned cash pretty much as soon as we got it. Should you wish, you can read all about Rich’s and my adventures as summertime clamdiggers in my nearby blog story, “I Graduate to Clamdigger”.

Around this time, 1967, a bunch of things were happening in what might be said to be the real world.

In a song entitled “For What It’s Worth” Buffalo Springfield sang at the Monterey Pop Festival about new things happening in this country and one had the feeling they were not all good.

Just as Rich Miller and my other college buddies were graduating, in mid June of 1967 Jimi Hendrix was playing at the Monterey Pop Festival along with a raft of other music celebs or soon to be celebs…The Grateful Dead, Janus Joplin, Otis Redding, Buffalo Springfield and many others… it was the first of many giant concert venues with dozens of great or soon to be great music stars. This concert had a kind of vibe and there was a feeling that “Something Was Happening Here” and indeed it was.

But life was not all music. Other things, not so optimistic, not so fun, we’re happening around the world. General William Westmoreland asked Defense Secretary Robert McNamara for an extra 100,000 troops for Vietnam. We needed to finish the job, he said. There were already 464,000 troops in South Vietnam, but the General said we were winning slowly and we needed more troops to polish off the VietCong…that proved optimistic.

Just as our summer clamming season was coming to an end, in early September, Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California, urged the U.S. do more in Vietnam, suggesting we should consider nuclear weapons. Fortunately, that suggestion was never adopted.

My summer job as clamdigger came to a conclusion. Rich Miller, my college buddy and clam-digging partner, decided it was time to get a real job. He went off to a bank job interview and within weeks he had put the harness on and was going out into the world as a young banker. That was not to last, but that is another story.

That left me without a job at 6s and and 7s. The weather was becoming chillier by the day, it was no longer practical to continue my summer job as a playboy clamdigger.

So that fall, I stayed on the Hamptons and once again, considered my options. During that summer, I had noticed a new publication called The Southampton Summer Day. It had quirky and offbeat stories that pricked my imagination. I liked the humorous and irreverent style of the publication. Throughout most of my life, I had harbored a desire to become writer. I was not sure how to go about that, but I decided to call the paper and find out if they wanted to hire someone who wanted to be a writer. I got a fellow on the line who said he was the publisher. That surprised me. I was expecting a secretary to answer the phone. But, no, it was a leaner operation than I had mind.

I asked if they might be looking for a writer to help out with the work involved.

“Yes and no,” was the answer. After some further questions, the guy who answered the phone, suggested that I send some samples of “my work”.

I mailed some short stories I had written to the guy I had spoken to. His name was Dan Rattiner. The stories were not very pertinent to the paper, but at least they indicated I could type somewhat and put words down on paper in sentences. That apparently was enough for Dan to suggest a follow up meeting. That was arranged and a few days later I found myself sitting next to a thin guy with glasses in a diner that was near to East Hampton. I remember the Diner very well because it was next to a tank just off of the main drag leading into Easthampton. I never learned just why the tank was next to the Diner, but I gathered it commemorated something.

Anyway, the young man opposite me explained that while he might be able to use a writer and even publish some of my writer’s stories, he could not do so full time. He did say that my writing showed “promise”. I did not know it, but Dan Rattiner was to become rather famous over time and in the future, his paper, or papers, became mainstay publications of the Hamptons, growing from a small 18 to 24 page black and white tabloid format to over 100 pages an additional 24, 36 or 48 page color wrap featuring famous local painters on the cover. All that was to come.

When I first met Dan, his paper was mere shadow of what it became. It was 18 or 24 pages, all black & white featuring some scribble cartoons that Dan regularly turned out. But, Dan’s stories were humorous and light-footed and the cartoons he drew to illustrate his stories were simple and crude, but they fit the paper and it all worked.

In our first meeting, Dan pointed out that the paper was closing down for the winter and would not reopen until the next season. This was a disappointment since I was hoping to start my new career that very Fall, but apparently, I would have to wait about 6 months.

And then the young publisher revealed the fact that what he really was looking for the coming year was one or two delivery boys. Someone who could drive around a truck/van and drop off the papers at each and every location. Apparently, there were quite a lot of locations to drop his papers off to. It turned out that Dan was regularly publishing 4 papers, most of which were the same, but there were special editions for each of the Hamptons…so there was a paper for Hampton Bays, Southampton, Easthampton and Montauk. Each had a different name and each had some local content, but most of the inner content was the same for all the different papers.

An intriguing aspect of Dan’s business model was that the papers were free to anyone who wanted to pick them up. I thought that was unusual and I liked the concept.

Dan suggested we have lox and bagels for lunch. I did not know what that was, but being adventurous, I went with the flow.

Well, Dan, spoke glowingly about all the opportunities his paper offered. He explained how he had started his first paper, The Montauk Pioneer, a few years earlier and how each and every year it had made money, in just the last two years, he added new papers in Easthampton, Southampton and Hampton Bays. He had high hopes that one day his papers would become an important publication on The East End.

In addition to needing a delivery boy and a part-time writer, Dan pointed out I could be a part time type-setter, a part-time ad salesman, and/or a part-time secretary. Well, I did not know what to make of this job interview, but I liked the idea of working in the Hamptons as writer and if I had to be a delivery boy as well, that was all right with me. I had to start somewhere. So, I agreed to the plan.

That meant making some further compromises, so that fall, winter and spring I went to work for my father. I told him this was just a job to get through the next six months and I insisted on working in the factory, rather than in the office. During the days, I packed fishing lure orders, built frog lures, assembled some weird fishing rods my father had acquired. I learned to unpack, repack boxes, tape boxes, mail out boxes, load boxes on trucks, bring boxes to the post office, pick up the mail, deliver the mail and many other exciting things.

In the evening I wrote stories that I thought Dan Rattiner would like for his paper. That was not easy since I was writing them at time of season that paper did not operate telling stories that did not have much to do with the East End of Long Island.

The months passed quickly and quietly on the North Shore of Long Island as 1967 slipped into 1968. I worked that winter and spring in my father’s warehouse, packing, shipping, making rods and lures, learning many things that I then thought worthless, but came later to consider valuable. In my father’s warehouse, I ended up running a fishing rod production line. Considering my zero knowledge of manufacturing and my eclectic approach to it, it is truly a miracle that any of it worked. And for while, it seemed I was on the road to establishing myself as a failed producer of fishing rods, but I endured and somehow it all worked out.

My production team was a mixed group of high school burnouts, dis-employed and displaced workers and drug addled teenagers. At this time, many things were changing. At the same time I was trying to develop writing skills for my summer job to come, I moved from packing, taping and shipping things to making fishing rods. At first I worked during the day and wrote at night, then I worked at night and wrote during the day. The latter schedule seemed to work out quite well, even if it started in chaos and disaster.

What had happened is that several years before my father bought the rights to this weird fishing rod product. It was called the AutoCast rod. It was a spring loaded, automatic casting rod. Not that the distances covered by this device were very impressive. In my father’s ad copy it said you could cast 50 to 70 feet, but I was never so lucky as to get it to cast more than 30 or 40 feet. No matter, it turned out that there a real market for this product. The best customers turned out to be paraplegics because they were generally physically unable to cast a fishing rod. So, the product had a true market base.

The sales of this thing were never that great, 5,000 or 10,000 units a year. My father was used to selling things in the hundreds of thousands, so you can say it was a lost child. That was up until the time my father struck up a relationship with a guy named Ed Downes. Ed turned out to be a kind of mail order / marketing / publishing genius. He owned a mail order catalog company called Madison House, which was bought with the proceeds of a product that Ed successfully sold as he emerged from college. That product was called “The Fur-lined Potty”. Ed ran a tiny classified ad in Esquire Magazine using this classic copy: “Gentleman, This Is It…The Genuine Fur-lined Potty!”

Now the product itself was pretty simple – a white enameled pot about 5” high, 10” around with a 1’ lip on top. To dress it up, Ed glued some squirrel hair around the flat 1” lip of the pot, hence the name, “The Fur-lined Potty”. To make a long story shorter, Ed had a hit on his hands. In doing so, he learned how to acquire, refashion and sell tens of thousands of the fur-lined potties. He also learned about advertising in magazines and he made $100,000 while still in college at a time when when $100,000 was really a lot of money. Esquire was so impressed by his regularly running little classified ads that they suggested he become classified advertising rep, which he did.

One thing led to another and when Ed got out of college, he went on rep more magazines and take on more products for mail order advertising. When my father met Ed he was already doing over $6,000,000 a year in mail order products and earning a hefty income from representing direct mail print advertising in number of magazines and newspapers. The match between my father and Ed proved to be made heaven. Ed put our AutoCast Rod into his Madison House catalog and soon he was selling over 5,000 rods year himself. Shortly thereafter a multitude other mail order catalogs took it on and pretty quickly the demand jumped up to over 50,000 units a year.

Enter humble me into the business…I only wanted to tape, pack and ship, but within a month or so, I found myself in charge 10 or 12 drug addled 18 to 22 somethings. A ragged crew it was. And need I mention, not only we’re the times and the music a-changing, so were range beverages and stimulants. Now all through college we were weaned on a steady diet of beer and other forms of alcohol, but now out college, in the real world, other world stimulants were coming into favor. In particular, wacky tabacky, also known as pot, ganja, weed, herb, grass and reefer, had become known to me and my nighttime workers.

It must said here that such things are not recommended for cohesive and precise manufacturing, but as Donald Rumsfeld once said, “You don’t go to war with the army you want, you go to war with the army you have.”

And so it was. My team of exiled high school drop-outs and some older, not so alert blue collar guys, were assigned the task of speeding up fishing rod production. I have to give some description of the manufacturing production line, which while not very sophisticated, was just that – a manufacturing production line. There 21 different production stops, drill presses, riveting machines, cutting machines, slotting machines. Along the way there were different parts that needed to be added or screwed on to the product, so there also things to pick up and put together and hopefully, we remembered to add the required elements.

You may imagine that my team was somewhat taken aback by the task before them when being confronted with a line of machinery and parts. Of one thing you could be sure, before starting every single evening, we would begin with a group meeting which included a discussion of production goals followed by passing around the sacred herb. After 20 to 30 minutes of mind stimulation and preparation, the evening production would get underway.

Now these corporate methods were not immediately successful as you might imagine. I believe the first evening we produced a total of 7 AutoCast fishing rods and several of those needed to be discarded due to “shoddy construction” or missing parts. The second evening was not much better. I think we got up to 9 units and our defect rate got down to 1 or 2. Considering the the day shift, run by my German stepmother, and some quite together young guys and gals, were churning our 200 to 300 units a day, our performance left something to be desired.

What to do? I thought. Actually, I had no idea, but I began to try things. The thing is, no matter what my approach, I tend to be competitive and persistent. So, I persisted. And gradually the production soared to 20 or 30 units a night. That still left some things to be desired. So I tried more things and the production did rise the next week to almost 100 rods per evening. In the end, what seemed to work best was me being at the end of the production line finishing things faster things just a little faster faster than the guys directly in front of me. That encouraged them to speed up. When they speeded up, the guys in front of them also speeded up, when the guys in front them, the rest of guys speeded up. Then I tried getting at the beginning of the line and feeding the first parts faster. Both systems seemed to work.

To finish this strange interlude, within a month or two we were producing 500 to 700 rods a night. And that was how I spent most the fall of 1967 and the winter of 1968. So my schedule became pretty set: I wrote short stories during the day and produced fishing rods at night.

Other things in the real world occurred. In October of 1967, Che Guevara, the famous revolutionary, was killed by Bolivian rebels. He had gained a cult following among lefties and revolutionaries and Vietnam protesters. And suddenly, he was gone. The myth had evaporated.

I was not a Vietnam protester, but certainly I felt the Vietnam War was crazy. Each night on TV, they would announce the number of U.S. casualties in dead and wounded, much as they have been announcing Coronavirus cases and deaths this year. In November, Joan Baez was arrested during an anti-war protest. In December, the British/French Concorde Jet was unveiled in Toulouse, France. A trip on that new plane from London to New York took only 3 to 4 hours versus the regular 8 to 9 hours by Boeing 707. Yes, things were happening.

Popuar music kept turning out new offerings that fall and winter: “Ode to Billie Joe” that mysterious and seductive song by Bobby Gentry about a couple throwing something off of the Tallahachie Bridge. Other songs came along and provided haunting warning signs that not all was right in the world. A prime example of that was Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of Bob Dylan’s song, “All Along The Watchtower”. In that song, it was not just Bob Dylan’s lyrics, it was also Jimi Hendrix’s solitary voice and fearsome guitar that gave the song power.

In January, 1968 the Tet Offensive took place and sowed doubts that we could ever win the Vietnam War. It is hard to understate the effect the Tet Offensive had. For years, leading up to it, our leaders, mathematical geniuses like Robert McNamara, President Johnson, and military leaders like General William Westmoreland had said that Vietnam was a crucial key to America’s effort to keep Communism contained worldwide and as we went from a few hundred troops in 1960 to over 500,000 troops 1968, the general, the Secretary of State and the President kept saying that victory was right around the corner.

All of that 8 year history of hard efforts and high hopes, as our country went from sending a few hundred American “advisers” to Vietnam to hundreds of thousands American troops to Vietnam, was effectively denied, refuted and obliterated by the Tet Offensive. How could the North Vietnam launch an offensive and invade all the major cities of South Vietnam if we were winning the war, if after 7 years of efforts, after tens of thousands of American dead, after hundreds of thousands wounded, how could we be winning that wear?

In short, the Tet Offensive changed many minds, convincing many who had previously believed the cause was righteous, that the cause was fruitless and the effort to win was impossible. By this time, most of America’s youth, in addition to listening to new and daily emerging kinds of rock music, in addition to quickly acquiring addictions to all sorts of drugs, had already decided that the Vietnam was wrong, fruitless and a waste of blood, money and trust. So, for those of us who were young, most of us had long since lost faith in the war effort. Most of us had decided that it was the wrong war in the wrong place.

Now, of course, there was a big body of young men who were actually in the war in Vietnam. And their opinions about the war were nowhere near as clear. Many of them believed in their country’s need to be in Vietnam, many of them had lost buddies in the war, many of them had friends who had been wounded either physically or mentally during the war. And at the same time, the same rock music and the same proliferation of drugs was finding their way into Vietnam. And so, when these young men and women returned home, they found that they were held in contempt by their own contemporaries. This created more conflicted emotions between their patriotic duty and their actual combat experiences in Vietnam. And when they did return to what they considered their homeland, they found it different from the place they had left.

The Tet Offensive started at the end of January 1968. It came in three phases. January through March, May through June and August through September. By the end, it was said that we had won and the Viet Cong and North Vietnam had lost. But truly, that was a Pyrrhic victory. It turned out we had won the battle, but lost the war.

So the country was torn and divided about Vietnam, as I worked through that winter, with my band of somewhat befuddled and dazed and confused workers. It was a strange time in America and for me it was a transitional period from clam digger to factory worker on my journey to newspaperman.

Other disturbing things were happening on the American scene. In April, President Johnson decided not to run for President and that same month Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Shortly thereafter black riots erupted across the country. So there was, in addition to widespread protests in the U.S., a lot of of turmoil and doubt. And this general atmosphere of new music, proliferating drugs, ongoing war, rebellious and confused youth and the assassination of a black leader was all part of the tapestry of our lives in the first half of 1968.

And the turmoil that was going on in Americas was worldwide. In May, student demonstrations clogged the streets of Paris. In June, Bobby Kennedy is assassinated. In July Andy Warhol is shot by a model.

And this was happening just as I was returning to the high hedges and green lawns and sandy beaches of Southampton to start my new career as a newspaperman.

In the beginning my real job was delivering newspapers. That turned out to be far more elaborate than I imagined, although I must say, it was interesting. I would drive to a printer somewhere and pick up the papers…at first the location was somewhere on Long Island, but soon that changed to New Jersey. Dan had given me full control of a beat up Volkswagen Van. That van, I can say this because I have a long history of using them (in the coming years I was to use or own no less than 5 Volkswagen Vans), was very utilitarian, but it had some weight limits and disadvantages as a craft negotiating America’s highways.

Let me address the weight limitation issue. If one read a Volkswagen Van owner manual (Dan’s had long since been lost), one would find, somewhere buried in the many pages of text, that one should not carry much more than 1,000 lbs. of cargo weight. I did not know that at the time, but some things you learn from experience. Now, I am not quite sure exactly how many pounds each load of Dan’s Papers amounted to, but remember, in those days it was not called Dan’s Papers. In those days, there were four separate papers that Dan was producing weekly. As mentioned before, these were not too hefty for one paper considering it 18 to 24 pages of tabloid newspaper stock, but if you multiply that by 15,000 or 20,000 by 4, it adds up to anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000 papers, each 18 to 24 pages thick.

I do not know what the total weight was, but I can tell you this, it was way more the recommended max cargo weight for a Volkswagen Van. The added weight changed the driving characteristics of the intrepid van. Pickup, which with only one person and no cargo, left something to be desired, when loaded with me and 60,000 to 80,000 newspapers, left a lot more to be desired. Let give you a picture. Have ever come across a heavy loaded truck heading up a high hill? You might notice that the speed of the heavy truck is dramatically reduced, especially when loaded with 10 tons of gravel or 6,000 gallons of fuel. The case was essentially the same with Dan’s Volkswagen bus loaded with me and one week’s quantity of Dan’s different papers.

Now trucks carrying 10 tons of gravel or 6,000 or more gallons of oil or gas, are actually designed to do that, so even if they are slow, they keep a solid grip on the road. Not so with Dan’s Volkswagen when heading from New Jersey to the shores of the Hamptons. The weight in the van had a tendency create what I would call a free floating effect every time the vehicle came to any bend or curve in the road over 15 mph. That meant one had to compensate for the listing effects to the left or right. So just learning to drive Dan’s van was a real experience.

Combine that with the fact that once I got to the Hamptons I was expected to deliver the papers to each and every location that Dan had selected. And that, as I mentioned earlier, turned out to be one heckuva a lot of places. Specifically, I dropped off papers at every store, barbershop, restaurant, bar, supermarket, deli, dry cleaner, florist in the Hamptons. That is to say, every one that would accept the Free Papers. Not everyone was enthralled to have 30 to 50 newspapers set up somewhere in their location, but most accepted it as OK. At the time, Dan’s Papers was not so well thought of. Some people liked the papers, but many were indifferent and some were antagonistic.

In between delivering papers, I endeavored to write articles suitable for the unique blend of satire, frolic and quasi news that Dan spun out. It turned out that most of the stories that I had labored on the winter or spring before were of no interest to Dan, primarily because they had no Hampton or Long Island content.

There was one first writing assignment that I did get an early start on. And that was Dan’s “Guide to The Hamptons”. This was an additional publication that Dan printed at the beginning of the summer and my first real writing project started with working on that project. Parts of the guide were very boilerplate…like descriptions of local restaurants and bars that advertised. That consisted of 3 or 4 lines of copy. These were little blurbs that generally just regurgitated some advertising points about the different bars and restaurants. So they all had the same feel to them.

The part that turned out to be quite interesting, to me at least, was a history of the Hamptons. Dan explained the the Hamptons were really were a very old part of the country. I knew some of that because my family had rented one summer the oldest house in New York State. That was the Halsey House on South Main Street in Southampton. In order to widen my knowledge all things regarding the history of the Hamptons, I went to the local library in Southampton. At the time that was on Jobs Lane.

In working on “The Guide to The Hamptons” I learned many interesting and surprising historical facts about the The Hamptons, such as the fact there were over 100,000 Indians (aka native Americans) living on Long Island when the first Europeans arrived. What really surprised me was that there were many separate tribes and each controlled their own designated areas…there were the Shinnecocks, the Montauks, the Setallcotts, and several others. And apparently, from what I read, most of these Indian tribes were peaceful, but occasionally some other more warlike tribes would come over from the mainland to plunder the local crops and acquire some of the local Long Island Indian ladies.

I was also surprised to learn that it was the Dutch who first came to New York and Long Island and began purchasing land from the Indians. The Dutch settled in New York City and on Long Island, from the 1620s until around 1665. Then the Brits came along and displaced them. I think that is it a nice way to put it. So, New York City and parts of Long Island were first settled by Dutch settlers, then English settlers arrived with some large, well armored warships and quickly said, this land is ours. Now, some the Dutch remained, as did many of the Indians, but the English were the new guys in town.

I really wish I had laid off that rum!

I learned other things as well as I did my research. Somewhere in the late 1600s, the local Southampton drunk was punished for repeated offenses. Apparently, the jail facilities and amenities were limited and so they used a different form of punishment. Imagine the town drunk out on a big bender one night staggering around and howling at the moon, even scaring the local ladies and children. The next day he wakes up on a mud path that happened to be the main thoroughfare into town. So the good people of Southampton find this eyesore sprawled in the mud as they pass by in their local finery…well, maybe finery is too strong a word.

Anyway, you can imagine the local residents highly disturbed because this the third time they have found this guy sprawled in the mud after a night of keeping the owls awake. Something has to be done – so they put him on wooden platform with a large wooden post. The post has 2 wood cross boards that are attached to a hinge at one end. In between the 2 cross boards are 3 cutouts – one large, the other 2 small. The large cutout is for your head to go in, the 2 smaller holes are for your hands to go in. So, the town gets you to stand up on the wood platform and place your head and hands in this device. They lock you in for one, two or more days. Of course, the drunk gentleman stands outside with his torso and legs behind the post and his head and hands locked in between the boards in front of the post.

What a tempting target that must have made for the local kids as they pass by. A perfect excuse to throw some rotten tomatoes or melons or clam shells or other refuse. In the meantime, the guy stands there for hours and days, in bright sunlight or frigid darkness or on hot summer days or frozen winter days. The target of kids, flies, mosquitoes and perhaps manure. And as you can imagine, bathroom facilities were slim so whatever happened, happened. It is all enough to make guy reconsider his drinking habits.

So I learned a lot about the older times, past or present. Speaking of the present, important events were then happening in the Hamptons. I even got to include one such event in writing the Hampton Guide. That was the marriage of Zal of the Lovin’ Spoonful. I happened to be passing Saint Andrew’s Church on Dune Road one morning when several members of the Lovin’ Spoonful emerged from that church, gaily dressed in bell bottoms and tie die tee shirts. There were men, women and kids all spilling out of the Church…harmonicas, guitars and symbols were playing, rice was flying. It was the late Sixties, man. It seemed like a perfect example of new things happening in the Hamptons.

So, for most that summer I delivered newspapers and wrote articles for the papers. As the summer dragged on it came to my attention that I was delivering papers more than getting stories published. It was true that I wrote many of the blurbs describing local restaurants, but where was the art in that? So, I confronted my boss, Dan. He did not seem to react to my pleading to get more stuff published, but I kept pestering Dan and then one week he must have felt sorry for me because published 4 stories at once. That made me happier, but I could tell the writing on the wall…there was a finite limit to how much stuff Dan was going to publish!

More sadly, I found out there were not many other publishing companies that were interested in my quaint and quirky stories about the Hamptons. They were humorous and pleasing in their way, but no one took them seriously. I got bunch of interviews with different publications…The New Yorker, Esquire Magazine, Newsday, The Daily News, the New York Times, but none of those folks felt my work and my abilities were for them.

That led to me ultimately returning to my father’s business. My interest at the time was still not serious. I still viewed working for my father as a station along the way to finding my true career. However, something had happened that changed my view of father’s business. He had just acquired a strange new business that sold something that I had never heard of before. That was inflatable canoes. I did not know what that was at the time, but that business ended up attracting my attention and, ultimately, it became my long term career. And so it goes.

In August of 1968, Soviet tanks invaded Prague, Czechoslovakia. Later in the month there were demonstrations outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago and all the TV stations covered that.

In October, Jackie Kennedy wedded Aristotle Onassis, the shipping magnate. That seemed like a big come down after being married to the President of the United States. But, the handsome, young President had been assassinated and the living have to make their own life decisions and Jackeline Onassis Kennedy made hers.

In November of that same year, Nixon and Agnew went on to win the 1968 election.

In December, the first U.S. Astronauts orbited the moon.

Meanwhile, the war in Vietnam continued to spin out of control.

Yes, there was something happening here and no one was quite sure what it was.

Through it all, music helped me navigate this topsy/turvy period.

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Into 2021 We Go

On January 3rd, I went for row. It was a cold, clear beautiful day with no indication of events to come.

By Cecil Hoge

January 17, 2021

At the beginning of last year I posted a blog story entitled, “Into the 20s We Go”. At the time, 2020 had begun with a number of dramatic events. The most dramatic event was the targeting and killing of an Iranian General, Gassem Soleimani. He expired at the beginning of the new decade in a drone-caused explosion ordered by Donald Trump. It seemed a traumatic start to the 2020s and I noted that. I went on to mention several other things that were happening. One of those things were reports of a strange new disease beginning in China.

At the time, I did not know where the story of that spreading disease would go, but having just come back from China 60 days before, I had a premonition that the story of the Coronavirus would be a part of the new year. That proved all too true. As as the Coronavirus moved through China and on to other countries, other events and other explosions occurred in 2020. And at the end of 2020, the election of Joseph Biden as President was certified by 50 states.

After the election of the new President, Donald Trump, the old President, denied that he had lost the election, even after Republican and Democratic electors in 50 states had certified the results and even after Donald Trump’s lawyers had lost 60 legal cases decided by Republican and Democratic judges.

On January 6th, a protest was held in Washington and then President Trump spoke to several thousand of his followers. What followed was another kind of explosion – the storming of the Congress of the United States. What was different in this case was that Donald Trump, the President at the time, had set in motion certain events that came back at him like the missile from the drone that killed Gassem Soleimani, the Iranian general the year before. And so, the President was undone by his own efforts to undue the 2020 Presidential Election.

“It is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver.”

That line is used in a recent movie, “Atomic Blonde”. It also comes from Niccolo Machiavelli in the early 1500s. Somehow that line seems apt in this case. Certainly, the deceiver and became the deceived.

As a result of the storming of Congress, quite a few officials and politicians got quite upset and they proceeded to initiate a second impeachment of Donald Trump.

Donald Trump was busy in the first week of January 2021 denying that he lost the election. Not so, he said, “I won by a landslide!”

I cannot say that I am sorry that Donald Trump was impeached for the second time. I find those events truly odd, but then again, I also find them inevitable. It is indeed a strange tale. To be impeached once during your first term as President is exceptional. To be impeached a second time, one week before the end of your term is a true historical precedent. And so Donald Trump achieved what no other President did. He got impeached twice.


As events swirled on in Washington and elsewhere, I try to live a normal life with my family in these crazy times, despite the double impeachment of The Donald, despite the raging Coronavirus, despite the fact that millions of people have lost their jobs and despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of businesses are going bankrupt or about to go bankrupt. I still work. I still design inflatable boats and I still try to introduce new models. I work half from home and half from my office.

At home, I attend to my normal duties. Each morning, I help my autistic son take a shower, help him dress, help him make his bed. I get up in the middle of night to give him his seizure medications. My wife, my son and I all have breakfast at our little kitchen table. I like that spot – the sun comes in from 2 skylights above and I can see my bird feeder while I sip coffee and munch my breakfast. It is a good to time to gather as a family and get ready for the new day.

In between breakfast and take out – oh yes, we do indulge in take out – my wife and I take lunches once or twice week to the local beach which overlooks Long Island Sound. And there we sit munching crackers and cheese or sandwiches. It can be beautiful and sunny or cloudy and windy, but no matter, the Sound is but 50 feet away and in the distance we can see the outline of the hills of Connecticut in the distance.

Our beverage for those meals in our car is simple water. It is a simple pleasure and we do that weekly. And yes, we would prefer to sit in a fancy restaurant and have a truly good meal brought to us. But these times do not afford us that luxury. We are concerned about the risk of disease that some think is a hoax. We stick to our bubble and have lunches overlooking the Sound.

In the winter, if there is a big wind at the beach we go to, there are generally windsurfers or kite surfers scooting back and forth, zipping over waves, jumping some times high into the air. They get well rubberized and insulated for their chilly adventures and I would go myself if I were younger. It is a super charged form of physical exercise, high energy and frigid exposure. I would think cups of hot coffee before and after are required.

For us, though, it is a grand site as we munch on crackers, salami and cheese. They zip back and forth while we sit warm and content in out SUV.

On days when I am home and the tide is right and the weather not too foreboding, I will go for a paddle or a row. On days when I am heading directly to the office, I will get in some early morning exercises on the elliptical exercise machine we have in our bedroom. By alternating these different forms of exercise, I am able to average some kind of exercise 5 days a week. I am not into peak fitness… I am into maintenance.

It is, of course, the paddling or rowing that really seems to maintain my “wa” – that is a simple Japanese word for a sense of harmony. Paddling or rowing on the bay that laps right up to my backyard is a mind-clearing, harmony-filling activity. I have written about that in many of these blog stories. It is always different, it is always changing, it is always rejuvenating and I always feel better after doing it.

Now many folks would think paddling or rowing at this time of year is truly crazy, but I would object. In truth, it is no crazier than windsurfing in winter on the Sound or cross country skiing in Vermont. Yes, you do have to dress appropriately for it, yes, you should be prudent, but it is not uncomfortable even on the coldest days. As I have said, one should not go for a row or paddle if there is ice, but if there is no ice, and it is not too windy or too cold or too rainy or too snowy, it is really pleasing and really invigorating. And so, by this January 17th, 2021, I been able to go 4 times since the beginning of the year. And that has helped my “wa” and my mood and allowed me to feel pretty darn good in these crazy times.

In between work and exercise and take-out, I also engage in boat testing. This year we just introduced a new model – the Sea Eagle FastCat 12. I am happy about that, but I am also working on a larger model, so that also takes some time. Like rowing or paddling in winter, you might consider it a truly crazy activity in winter and I might agree with you, but it has to be done. There timelines involved in introducing inflatable boats. It takes time to make a design. It takes time explain the design to one of your suppliers and then it takes time for them to make a prototype. And then, you must test it.

If it looks like we are not having the best of times, you are right. The temperature was in the mid 30s F and the wind was a constant 20 to 30mph. I can tell you that surgical masks are helpful in keeping out some wind. I was dressed here in a blue NorthFace double layer jacket with life vest, serious gloves and serious winter hat.

All of that does not explain why it seems that every year the new prototypes arrive in the dead of winter. I can assure that motor boating, where you are fully exposed to freezing temperatures and an unrelenting winter wind, is far chillier than rowing in the exact same conditions. Trust me on that.

Nevertheless, testing is a regular of my life, just as stopping at Starbucks for a cup of Java before hitting the office.

In an earlier life, this bar was the home of the original TGIF Fridays. In 70s and 80s, it was thronged by thousands of young city dwellers seeking beer, companionship and hamburgers. The original Friday’s did not outlast the chain of restaurants that came to be named after it. By 2019, the original Friday’s was long gone and it had become the Baker Street Pub. When I passed by on January 8th, it was shuttered and available for lease.

On January 8th, I had the opportunity to visit New York City. I had visited the city the year before on almost the exact same date and the contrast between the two visits could not have been more different. First, I must mention my visit in first days of 2020 was to reconnoiter the New Boat Show while my visit in 2021 was to take my son for a MRI at MSK, aka Memorial Sloan Kettering. On each of these two occasions, I had some time to check out what was going on in my beloved city where I was born.

As I have said above, the contrast between visits could not have been more different. When I visited the New York Boat Show at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in the first few days of January 2020, I was overwhelmed by the many people and the bustling development that I saw. First and foremost, the city around the Javits Center seemed be bursting out all over, with new buildings going up all, throngs of crowds of people visiting, and glamorous new architecture to behold.

Having displayed many years at the Javits Center, I have to say that area town was very desolate. It was hard to get there. It was hard to get out of there once you got there. There were long lonely blocks that were scary to walk at night and one had the impression that that part of the city had either always been either doomed or simply forgotten.

Fast forward to the first days of 2020 and compare the area as it used to be with the area that it was fast becoming. Now the Hudson Yards has just emerged in all its new born glory…with striking and interesting architecture, brand shopping malls, brand new high end restaurants and large new apartment building shooting up on all sides. Even the Javits Center itself seemed to be enfused new life and one had the impression that all of New York City and a good part the surrounding suburbs had discovered that something new, something bold was emerging in that formerly lonely area of the city.

Big things were happening near the Javits Center when I visited with my brother in January, 2020. This structure is called the Vessel. It was closed in January, 2021 because several people thought it was a good place to jump from.

Before going to the Boat Show, my brother and I met up with our young techie cousin. He was busy in that area of the city frantically helping some the new businesses set up web services and the like. We decided to meet at an Asian Fusion restaurant in the swanky Hudson Yards Mall. After wandering through a parade of high luxury goods shops that gave me the impression I had entered a new section of Shanghai or Shenzhen, we scooted up escalators and without too much difficulty found ourselves seated in a very sleek looking Korean restaurant.

This was comfortable for me my since I was only back from a visit to Korea and China four weeks before. The restaurant was crowded, but we were able to get a nice table. Since our techie relative was running late, I took the opportunity to soak up some green tea while we waited for his arrival. He soon arrived and told us how crazy everything was in this new area. Impossible to park, people rushing everywhere, his customers wanting instant web services. All mad, all rushing, all people in enormous hurry to get up and running.

Remembering this same area from boat shows in the past, I could not but be struck by the new life and verve of this area. In the past, the area around the Javits Center was kind of haunted by desperate and dark loneliness. No more, now it was surrounded by surging new buildings blasting there way into the sky.

This is the mall I had Shashimi and green tea with my brother and my techie cousin. This New York Times article was published on February 6, 2021. I would note that while this is a glittering example of recent effects of the Coronavirus, many other parts of the city are also suffering.

After a fine meal of seaweed salad and shashimi (raw fish to those not familiar) we headed out of the restaurant, passing the intriguing new architecture of the area, on our way to the nearby Javits Center. It was all new and I had the feeling that the city had been reborn in a way that had been missing since 2001. As we approached the Javits Center, it seemed a new vision. There were throngs of people heading into the Javits Center. Whether they coming to see boats or to inspect the new surrounding areas was not clear. What was clear was that there were people alive and well and apparently interested in boats streaming into the Javits Center.

And so we went into the Javits Center and checked out the new boats. In truth, there were not a whole lot on display. The New York Boat has never regained the glory days it once had in the 70s and 80s at the New York Coleseum. That location was midtown just on the West Side corner opposite Central Park. Lincoln Center was nearby and there always was a mob of people wandering around the area. All of that helped the New York Boat Show.

When the Javits Center was completed, it was, as I mentioned, in a desolate part of town, way on the West Side and it never got the crowds the The New York Coliseum enjoyed in its heyday. No matter, the attendance at the boat show this last January was a Renaissance in itself with greater attendance and more people populating the general area.

Who knew that the Javits Center would become a temporary hospital for Coronavirus patients in just 3 months?

The contrast to the trip last year to my visit in the first days of January 2021 could not have been greater.

Things were not good at Raddbarbers…it looks like they made their last cut a few months ago.

As I walked around the nearby streets around Memorial Sloan Kettering, I saw restaurant after restaurant, shop after shop boarded up and closed. And I could see by looking into the open windows of the closed bars, restaurants and shops that the end had come suddenly and not in a good way. Instead of neat and clean empty business spaces, tools, abandoned tables and had been left helper-skelter and the building spaces themselves seemed to be evacuated half finished or half unfinished. In looked like, peering into those desolate windows, that the first reaction to Covid was to start building and changing the interiors and then it looked like something changed the mindset of those working on rebuilding and they just gave up, leaving circular saws, rolled up carpets and cans of paint where they were last deployed.

This corner building looked like it had been deserted above and below!

Looking across the street there were entire blocks that looked like they had been ravaged by Covid. Stores were empty at the base of the buildings with signs for lease prominent, while apartments above looked like they had been vacated en mass.

In the truth my walk about the city was only in one chosen area and that was for a good reason…I would have to get back to the hospital soon because my son’s MRI would soon be over. So, I only walked around for about an hour and I was soon back at hospital well before my son was finished with his MRI and ready to be released.

So, my view of the city was a quick hit and quick impressions can be wrong. I will say I know this part of the city very well and have visited or lived in that area for many years. So, I did have some comparisons in my mind. And when I think of that area, I remember it always as bustling with crowds trying to get into restaurants, with mothers and children walking around either getting air or stopping by shops, with people exercising out in the nearby parks, with cars honking and circling around trying to find parking spaces, with trucks parked on street lanes unloading goods, with people walking their dogs. And while there were still people and cars and trucks out on the street, they were a mere shadow of what was normal the year before. The city blocks had a lonely and somewhat fearful look as you walked by people with masks on who carefully moved to the left or right whenever as you approached.

In short, it seemed a different city.

A young black lady recited a poem of hope and light.

January 20th, 2021 –

“When day comes we ask ourselves,

where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry,

a sea we must wade”

Above are the first 4 lines of Amanda Gorman’s poem that she recited at Joseph Biden’s Inauguration this January. It was a beautiful, clear day in Washington.


I am happy to say this day has come without incident. There was a lot of concern that the recent storming of Congress could spill into the inauguration of Joe Biden. 25,000 National Guardsmen have been called out to guard the proceeding. 10,000 FBI are on hand to make sure protesters are out of sight and out of mind. All goes surprisingly well. A young black lady recites a wonderful poem and the new President promises to pursue unity. And on such building blocks, many a new Presidency is begun.

But as my father has told me many times, “Many is the slip between cup and lip.”

So we must hope that all goes well with the transition to the Biden Administration and somehow the country finds new peace and prosperity and is able to get past the terrible changes that the Coronavirus has brought. It is not an easy task. Apparently, a significant percentage of Republicans who voted for Donald Trump, still believe the election was stolen and that The Donald won.

I guess it comes down to who and what you believe?

Do you believe Republican and Democratic electors in 50 separate states? Do you believe that mail-in ballots were subject to massive fraud across the United States? Do you believe that there was a nationwide conspiracy to change the votes for one man (Donald Trump) and not all the other Republican candidates for other offices? Or do you believe that Donald Trump and all Republicans across this nation did far better than reported?

I believe the vote counts that have been certified in 50 separate states by Republican and Democratic electors. I believe the Republican and Democratic judges, some of whom were actually appointed by Donald Trump, who ruled against Donald Trump in 60 separate legal cases.

Nevertheless, it seems that millions of Americans believe Donald Trump instead…they believe the man that told millions of his followers that Mexico would pay for the wall, that Covid would go away after November 3rd.

I would ask people if that makes sense? But as I said in my last blog, common sense is not an admired quality these days. These days, conspiracy theories have become more esteemed. And so, that is the state of play in the good old U.SA.

January 31st, 2021 –

The month is ending cold here. Ice has formed on my bay. It is no longer practical to go for a row or a paddle. I must content myself with my elliptical machine and cold walks in our neighborhood.

The Biden Administration began its new term with high hopes, a flurry of executive actions and the beginnings of the second impeachment of the last President. Fox News is already beating their populist drums, saying they told you so…all this talk of unity, it is not true, they are only failed efforts to proceed with a second impeachment and a snowstorm of executive orders over-turning as much as possible of what Donald Trump did. In the meantime, efforts to get further relief for the unemployed founder in the political turmoil.

As the month ends there is a lot of excitement about a stock called GamesStop. It seems the markets somewhat bewildered by the rise of young independently minded stock investors using new apps to trade stocks. The youngsters are attacking strategies developed by fabled Hedge Funds. In particular, they seem to have a beef with the short positions of Hedge Funds, thinking the Hedge Funds are probably destroying perfectly good companies. That may be true, but young Turks are changing the game and there is a lot of fear and speculation regarding that.

My Democratic hat says this is a good thing. My historical hat is more hesitant, thinking beware of what you wish for. In the last two trading days of January the market took an abrupt hit from the varying forces of speculation, with GameStop rising, falling and rising again in moves that exceeded 1000%. For the moment the stock is at a relative high while other portions of the market dived.

It gives me un-peaceful, uneasy feeling. The Biden Administration does not seem to know what to do about the market turmoil other than to consider some form of new regulations. Politicians on the left and right seem to exult in the rights of the new boys on the block. Me, I wonder if the result will be a stock market that tumbles from the clouds. The markets have been on tear upward for the last four years, all through the Trump Administration and now into the Biden Administration, despite events that have grossly harmed the economy. The economy sputters on like a man walking on crutches with a broken ankle and a dislocated shoulder.

I would like to leave you with the hope of the young black female poet:

When day comes we step out of the shade,

aflame and unafraid

The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it,

If only we’re brave enough to be it

No rowing today. February is coming. A snowstorm is predicted for tomorrow.
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Paddling in a Pandemic Chapter 5

By Cecil Hoge

November 15th, 2021

I am now back from our summer Montauk vacation and well-settled into a routine of paddling, rowing, working, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and living day to day with wife and family.

Yes, I do get other things to eat besides peanut butter and jelly…Italian take-out, Chinese take-out, Mexican take-out, and, believe it or not, some nice home cooked meals. Simple, yes, but good. Pastas with veggies, salads with chicken, chicken with veggies, chicken with chicken, occasional fish, even a juicy ribeye steak once in a while. But we have to stay close to the Hacienda, not wanting to expose ourselves to the raging and rising cases of the Coronavirus.

In between work and family and food, I get to paddle or row.

At this time of year, I prefer to row. The reason being as the season gets chillier, rowing is a warmer form of exercise, especially if there are high winds passing through. That is because rowing with my sliding rigger arm employs both arms and legs rather paddling a kayak, which uses just arms and torso. Rowing also provides more power because 2 oars are in the water at the same time and that is more powerful than one paddle blade at a time.

On this day, I need that all the added power I could get because the wind was passing through very vigorously, with steady winds of 15 to 20 mph and gusts up to 35 mph. Knowing that the forecast called for even higher winds in the afternoon, I took the opportunity to head out just as the tide was peaking.

That was around 11 am.

And truly on this day the tide was peaking. As I approached the path to my dock, the aluminum walkway going to the dock, was covered with water from the Seven Seas. That made it necessary for me to walk the upper rung of the aluminum railing of the walkway to get over the 8 foot section of walkway that was now underwater. That required some skillful footwork while handling an insulated carry bag I have for my bluetooth speaker and two seltzers.

You might ask why I bring chilled seltzers on cold November day. It was pretty nippy – the temperature being in the high 30s at the time – but I knew after rowing a while, I would welcome those seltzers. So, off I went, walking on the upper side rungs of my aluminum walkway down to my floating dock or in this case, up to my floating dock. That was because the high tide had angled my aluminum walkway up at a 30 degree angle because it was connected to my floating dock which was floating about two feet higher than normal.

Here is my present rowing setup – it is a prototype – note the mirror – that is to see where I am going.

No matter, I made the journey with my carry bag in hand. On the dock, I placed my carry bag on my rowing vessel – a prototype inflatable SUP I had made thinking I would make it into a sailboat. I gave up on the sailboat idea, but hating not to use a good prototype, I converted it into a rowing vessel using a sliding rigger arm rowing system from my good buddy, Urs Wunderli. He calls this rowing system “RowBoard”. Urs has a company called DiscoverRowing.com where he sells those. I will never cease chastising Urs for calling his wonderful rowing design such a prosaic name as RowBoard. For me, it will always be the Wunderli Rower. That catches the spirit of the thing much better.

I have used Urs’s rower for 5 years now, first with a special prototype version of my Sea Eagle RazorLite kayak, then with one of our Sea Eagle NeedleNose SUPs and most recently (for the last two years) with my leftover prototype. That prototype is 14’ long, 40” wide with more of surfboard shape than a kayak shape. So, it is wider and longer than most kayaks or SUPs. And because I row it all year around, I have two side air chambers attached to the SUP below by D-rings and oval connectors. I feel this arrangement is safer and more stable for rowing in the winter. One does not want to fall into 40 degree water. It ain’t healthy.

So off I went on that windy day. On this occasion, the wind was coming from the Southwest, but it had more South in her than West. Now, when there is a strong wind coming across my bay, I first head for the opposite shore and then hug the shoreline, taking advantage of the “lee of the land”. I have spoken about this in the past, but I will translate what it means again – if you are in the “lee of the land”, it means that the land is protecting you from the wind because there are trees and houses and other such things blocking the vigorous wind. But given the agitated state of the winds that day, I still had to pull hard on the oars to get across the bay and, because the wind was more Southerly than Westerly, I still had to row directly into the wind.

The good news was that on the other side of the bay, the wind was more muted because trees and houses were nearby. Now, because rowing entails some effort, especially when you are rowing against the wind, it is really not practical to stop and enjoy a seltzer. Not unless you want to see the wind undo all your hard efforts. In sailing, you want the wind at your back. In rowing, you want the wind on your chest. And as I headed out, I had no choice but to row against the wind with the wind at my back. But once I got to where I was heading – the Southwest side of Little Bay – I knew the return trip the wind would be far easier with the wind at my chest and life, as they say, would be a breeze. And so it was.

On the sheltered side of the bay, I set up my Bluetooth speaker, hooked into my phone and started streaming music from my favorite radio…WFUV…that is the Fordham University station in NYC. They feature an eclectic selection of rock and alternative music, mingling Dylan with Lizzo with Avett Brothers with Coldplay with Gorillaz…so some old, some new.

Out on the bay, the music streamed pleasantly as I rowed my way along and while the wind was brisk and chilly (upper 40s), the bright sun toasted my dark fleece lined jacket and black gloves. And as Mr. Dylan says, it was all good.

After about 20 minutes I made it out of Little Bay all the way to the back of Setauket Bay. This was not my normal route, but on this windy day, I kept to the leeward side of the bays and had a fine time. The day was not yet cloudy…heavy clouds and nasty rains were predicted for the afternoon, but that morning the sun was still appearing though the first incoming gray clouds.

The back of Setauket Bay is nicely nestled in a small narrow part of the bay that is truly in the “lee of the land”. I secured my position by rowing right into the reeds at the end of the bay. I took a pull on my seltzer and looked back over the turf I had rowed. There is something very satisfying when you know you have blasted through wind and waves and know that the return trip will be blessed with more favorable conditions in the opposite direction.

There is only one problem in being in that section of Setauket Bay. It is only a few hundred yards from SE-Port Deli. And with the wind blowing from the Southwest, it meant that the smell of bacon, sausage and eggs wafting from the deli was particularly strong. Fortunately, the endorphins I had just gained from my row, were pulsing through my system, flooding me with good will and well being and suppressing my somewhat irresistible urge to paddle a little farther, get out and run over to the deli to pick up a sausage, cheese and double egg sandwich. Fortunately the urge to do that was suppressed by my endorphins.

I took the time to cherish the moment. I sipped my seltzer and listened to Lana Del Rey singing about her and her girlfriend dancing in summertime and pondered the good and bad in life. Yes, rowing could be hard against the wind, but then, when you have gone that distance, rowing could be “a breeze” in the opposite direction. I felt the bite of the bubbles in my mouth and the coolness of that simple beverage. I took time to savor the moment, looking back at the water I had just come over and seeing clouds passing by overhead with moments of sun and moments of gray. It was good to be alive.

The row back was downright fun. As soon as I pulled out of the reeds and got out into the bay, the wind picked up and started pushing me back home. I was still in the “lee of the land”, but as I continued to pull out into Setauket Bay, the brisk Southwest winds began to give my row strokes some extra ummph. Rowing became a “breeze” with my speed picking up and my effort becoming non-existent. I felt bad about that. It was getting too easy. My craft was sliding over wind and waves almost as if it had caught a big swell. I could justify that by the thought that the beginning the trip was a bit of a struggle, so this was my just reward.

The further and further I went out on bay, the higher the wind, the higher the waves and the more sensation that I was not rowing…the more the sensation that I was surfing. Considering the waves and whitecaps were only 9” to 12”, surfing might be something of an exaggeration, but certainly I was cruising along at a lot faster pace than I came. I have clocked my rowing speed with an app on my phone. On flat water I can row comfortably 3 to 4 miles an hour and if I hump it, I can get up to 5 or 5.25 mph. That’s it. Now, since I did not bring my phone, I had no precise calculation, but on that return, I felt sure I was blasting along at 6 or 7 mph with little or no effort. Yes, it was a good day to be alive.

When I finished the last blog story in this series – “Paddling in a Pandemic Chapter 4“ – it was in the middle of July a little before our Montauk vacation. At that time, Coronavirus cases had just peaked at 68,000 in a single day and the total number of cases in the U.S. was a little above 3,000,000. This last week, two days ago, cases peaked at 181,000 cases per day and the total number of cases in the United States was almost 11,000,000. I cite numbers, which are terrible in their truth, to show you what has happened in less than 4 months.

So you can safely say there has been an incredible increase in the breath and intensity of the Pandemic. That was too be expected…this summer, the country opened up a lot of the economy, outdoor restaurants welcomed diners and the weather became comfortable to eat outside. In the Fall, schools opened up while restaurants continued to try and service customers as the weather got cooler. And so we let down our guard and mingled and tried to resume normal life. And as we did, the Coronavirus came back in spades.

At the time I finished the last blog story in this series, I mentioned that our present President was very concerned about the upcoming election. Surely, the advent and increase of mail-in ballots meant that those Commie/Liberal/Pinko/Radical types (here I use some of Fox News and the President’s lingo) would stuff ballots and commit mammoth fraud. The President went on to say that mail-in ballots invited massive fraud by Democrats. And now, as I begin this new blog story, it seems that some part of The Donald’s concerns have come to pass. A great number of mail-in ballots were cast in the most recent election and, heavens to purgatroid, the numbers of certified mail-in votes showed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had won.

The President was not happy with the election results – there was no way he could have lost! It was simply mathematically impossible!

Now the President is convinced (or says he is convinced) that millions of these ballots were fraudulent, just like in the last election, when the President was convinced that millions of ballots for him were discarded and he actually got more votes than Hillary Clinton. The new President said at the time there was no way Hillary could have gotten 3 million more votes than him.

That previous theory of the President was shot down by a commission that Donald Trump appointed. They investigated his claim and looked everywhere they could, but they were unable to find the missing three million votes. In fact, they were unable to find any missing votes.

Now the President is on new quest – to find altered ballots in the 2020 election. The President has said there is massive fraud in this election, but he and his minions have yet to be able to uncover any fraud. No matter, his lawyers are hard upon it, losing battle after battle, ever convinced the next battles will be winners and the fraudulent ballots will be presented to the world. But so far, nada!

So, now we have a standoff. The present President says he was wronged and the subject of massive fraud, the new elected President says, not to worry, January 20th is coming soon and The Donald will have to pack his bag and be gone.

I shall not worry about the true outcome of this story because I am betting by the time I am ready to post this story, the outcome will be known. I shall update this story at the end of this blog post.

In the meantime, I would like to point out two predictions that The Donald made a few days before he was dis-elected.

The present President said in the first days of November, just before the actual election, to several different crowds of tens of thousands of his followers:

“Covid, Covid, Covid, that is all the media reports. By the way, after November 3rd, you won’t hear about it. It will be gone.”

Well, it is November 15th, and, sad to say, we hear a lot about Covid.

The second prediction that the President made was that the stock market would collapse upon the election of Joe Biden.

Well, Dear Donald, it is several days after the election of Joe Biden and it seems the pundits, the experts, the quants and the scalawags who move markets and exhibit wisdom known only to them have not heard your prediction for the stock market. They have driven it to all-time highs.

I cannot say that the prediction of a collapsing stock market does not have some merit. It may someday become true. Not because I think Slo Joe (The Donald’s name for Joe Biden) is going to cause a crash, but because I think the economic factors that Joe Biden faces in the near future are likely to be very grim.

Here, I would like to introduce a little “Common Sense”. You know this quality, common sense, used to be an American virtue, but recently its reputation has been tarnished and it is no longer thought of highly. Instead of common sense, conspiracy theories have come into favor. Conspiracy theories are the new common sense.

I mean if a guy says we are going to build a great big, beautiful wall on our border and Mexico is going to pay for it, that is one thing, but when the same guy, Donald Trump, asks thousands of people:

“Who is going to pay for the wall?”

And the thousands of people shout out: “Mexico”

One has to wonder what happened to “common sense”? I mean, do you think Mexico would want to pay for our wall, especially, if that wall was designed to keep Mexicans out of this country? Do you even think Donald Trump thinks Mexico will pay for the wall?

Yet, tens of thousands of people swallowed that lie whole and when the President said Mexico would pay for the wall and then immediately asked them with his hand to his ear, “Who going pay for the wall?” and then they happily cry out, “Mexico”.

I can only think that is a case of millions people wanting Mexico to pay for a wall because they, quite sensibly, did not themselves want to pay for a wall.

I think, given that example, it is fair to say that the knack of “common sense“ has been lost by many people.

I would cite the stock market as a prime example of emotion, rather than common sense, ruling reality.

The stock has gone up a huge amount in the last four years, but was that because there was a real and true improvement in our economy? Yes, in the first three years, there were improvements in employment and the tax cut did increase salaries somewhat, but did that justify an 40% increase in the stock market? And now that the economy has been decimated by the Coronavirus and millions have lost their jobs, does that still mean that the stock market should still be up over 40%?

Let’s consider the recent case of a leading drug company (Pfizer) announcing that their “initial tests” of their new Coronavirus vaccine has over a 90% effective cure rate. Now, this is truly good news, but I would like to point out another American saying:

“Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Have Hatched”.

This is a wise edict, but one that is unheard of on Wall Street.

On Wall Street, they count chickens before they have hatched. In fact, they count chickens before the rooster has been introduced to the hen. In fact, they count the descendants of the chickens that have yet to be hatched.

I would point out that the “initial tests”, which were very good, have yet to be approved by the FDA. And it must be mentioned here that the efficacy tests are measured against a placebo. So, in this case, there were about 30,000 people tested – 15,000 with the new vaccine and 15,000 with a placebo (usually sugared water) – So half of the people get the actual vaccine and half get a harmless placebo. So, the results showed more people who got the placebo got the Coronavirus than those who took the actual vaccine. On that basis, the Pfizer vaccine was said to be 95% effective.

The stock market went up. And yes, that was very good news, but the fact is that Coronavirus is still raging at this moment and still killing thousands of people each day.

Now I should point out that there are few more hurdles for this vaccine to go through before it is truly effective. But never mind, in the eyes of Wall Street the Coronavirus is cured. So, it is time to buy hotels, airlines, cruise ship companies, brick and mortar retail companies. Happy days are here again.

But let’s get back to several hurdles that need to be overcome. For example, the new vaccine has to be approved by the FDA. That should not be problem if the “initial tests” are as exciting as promised, but it will take time. Specifically, about 3 weeks according to the CDC. Then there is the little matter of producing the vaccine in the quantities needed once it is approved. And then there is the logistical issues of shipping the vaccine where it is needed. Then, there is the issue of actually vaccinating people. And, oh yeah, then just maybe, it is going to take some time to see if it works. Maybe not everyone is going to Disneyland the day they get vaccinated.

My father has said to me, many times, not once, the following:

“Many is the slip between cup and lip.”

By that he meant that you might have a fantastic glass of vintage red wine in your hand, but something might happen before it actually gets into your mouth.

With that in mind, I might point out that things do not always go smoothly. There can be delays in producing the vaccine, delays in shipping the vaccine, delays in distributing the vaccine, delays in inoculating people. This is a vaccine that has to be refrigerated at minus 70 degrees Celsius. That is minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. Kind of chilly. For that you need all sorts special freezers to store it in and to ship it in. Then the vaccine has to shipped to drug stores, hospitals, nursing homes and other locations.

The States have to get the vaccines to their citizens, so they have to have funding for that and so far Congress has not approved funding for States. And then there is the little matter that viruses have a tendency to mutate and by the time the vaccine does get into distribution the virus may have changed its DNA and the vaccine may no longer be effective. Ooops.

So I would say, use a little common sense and realize just because a vaccine appears to be effective in a test of 30,000 does not mean that it will immediately eliminate the Coronavirus in 7,400,000,000 people on this planet.

I would also like to extend the concept of “common sense” a little further. In this last election President Trump got over 70,000,000 votes – 3 million more than he got in 2016. In this election Republicans gained seats in both the House and in the Senate. If Mr. Trump is right that there was massive fraud, does that mean that Democrats changed the votes of the President, but not change the votes for Republicans in the House and Senate? It would seem to me if you are going to go to the trouble of committing widespread fraud, you would like to see both your President and your Party get elected. But that is not what happened. Republicans gained Senate and House seats, Democrats lost Senate and House seats. Only the Republican President did not get as many votes as his Democratic opponent Joe Biden.

That would indicate that only the little box for President was altered while all the other little boxes for all the other offices on the ballot were not altered.

Does that make “common sense”? I think not. I think if I was a “Commie, Pinko, Left-Wing Radical Democratic plot”, to use the beloved terms of the Fox News commentator, Lou Dobbs, it should apply apply to all Democrats. I think I would make sure both my President and my Commie, Pinko, Left-Wing Radical Dem Senators and Representatives were all re-elected. I mean, if you are in for a penny, why not be in for a dollar?

November 23, 2021 – Red in morning, Sailors take warning!

November 23rd, 2020 –

I went for an early morning row around 6:30am on the day after Thanksgiving. The wind was brisk, about 10 mph, the day was just dawning, somewhere between darkness and light, the sun was trying to peer through the cold gray clouds and in doing so it threw off a yellow red hue in the sky, giving the day a beautiful and somewhat threatening start.

New developments in politics have occurred – the GSA has given tacit approval to the Biden Administration acknowledging that Biden won and the transition from one Administration to another has begun. The present President has tweeted that he has now told the GSA to proceed with allowing the Biden Administration access to transition funds. That was strange, since the lady in charge of those transition funds had written in a letter that the White House had no influence on her decision to recognize the election of President Elect Joseph Biden.

No matter, the present President Trump continued to say he had won, even though every legal challenge his lawyers have presented so far has been thrown out courts around the country…all for one simple reason…no compelling evidence of fraud had been presented or proved!

I thought not about these matters. I knew the sun would soon come up, so whatever is to be, will be. I am guessing our great Republic will somehow endure.

Later in the day (the morning after Thanksgiving) the sky became blue and the water was almost dead calm

As the sun rose, weather conditions quickly changed. From a dark and cloudy and forbidding early morning sky, the scene above changed. The cloud bank moved on, mirulously swept from the sky. The air was still brisk, but now the sky was a clear, the water flat and glassy. In the picture above, you will get some idea of how calm and beautiful it soon became. The temperature was still in the low 40s and I had dressed accordingly thinking that it might be quite chilly once I got out on the bay. So I had my fleece lined pants, a nice warm Filson flannel shirt, a Duluth fleece lined wind jacket and a pair of waterproof work gloves. Topping off all this was a lightweight wool scarf.

How wrong I was. It turned out warmer on the water than I thought. The morning clouds swept away, the wind laid down. The now clear blue sky let the sun make its full play. Soon I was divested myself of my scarf and unzipped my jacket. And I, in motion, rowed steadily, and soon I easily, quietly worked up a sweat. The cup of coffee I brought along had a nice bite to it, but it added to the feeling that I was too warm. So I shed my jacket and rowed on, instantly feeling cooler.

After about 45 minutes of rowing some words bubbled up in my mind:

“Oh, what a beautiful day.”

And indeed, it was. Cold yes, but now clear and beautiful, with a cloudless blue sky above.

This is why I take such great pleasure in paddling or rowing. You can start out cold and depressed, full of worries about life and family and politics and just 20 or 30 minutes later all the sense of foreboding, all sense of something that might go wrong or all sense of some particular problem that was nagging you…it all evaporates and soon you feel nothing but well exercised and lucky to be alive.

Thanksgiving the day before had been particularly pleasant. It was a small gathering of people of people at our house who were in our “bubble”. My son, my wife and 5 family friends, 2 of which, had done the courtesy of getting tested for the Coronavirus, the other 3 happened to be trusted members of our “bubble”.

The dinner was a replay on smaller scale of Thanksgivings in the past. And we all felt like some normalcy had occurred and we all were grateful to have a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast in this sad period of diminished expectations. This was especially true considering the ever rising Coronavirus cases and deaths and declining economic situation of the many who were less fortunate.

Among our group we had all gotten to this point relatively unscathed. All of us, had various life issues, our son being autistic, my wife’s health not so good, the others still struggling with health and the financial vicissitudes of life. I have mentioned that my two businesses have been lucky in this period because people still wanted to go fishing and kayaking and felt they could do that safely outdoors. Among our guests was a teacher, a bus driver and 2 health care workers. All had been affected briefly by the Coronavirus crisis, having lost jobs and incomes briefly, but all were re-employed and all had avoided getting the Coronavirus. So we all had a lot to be thankful for – good health, reasonable economic stability and wonderfully tasteful Thanksgiving dinner.

We had a classic, succulent turkey, roasted skins, stuffing galore, cranberries, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes topped with roasted marshmallows, string beans, turnips, pumpkin pie…yes, it was all like it should be and we were truly grateful to God for our good food, good fortune and happy gathering.

So, the day after, when I was out of the water, after the red cloud-ridden sky had cleared, after the words, “Oh what a beautiful morning” came bubbling up to me, I can only say it was so.

December 12th, 2020

The Donald has lost another legal suit in his quest to overturn the election. This time the Supreme Court has denied to hear a case brought by the State of Texas to throw out the votes of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia. Specifically, the Supreme Court denied the request to be heard because it said that Texas had no legal standing to overturn the votes of other states. Later that day, the great State of Wisconsin, said in yet another Trump legal case, that his lawyers had shown no evidence of fraud and had not demonstrated any reason to invalidate the certified votes of that state.

Poor Donald. It is not easy to become a dictator.

The President is not happy with The Supreme Court or the State of Wisconsin

The present President tweeted his dismay with the highest court in the land:

“The Supreme Court let us down. “No Wisdom, No Courage!”

I would not agree that, but I am only one person who voted for Joe Biden and against Mr. Trump.

You know what I would say? I would say maybe it was good idea that Texas had their lawsuit thrown out. I am guessing Texas might not like it if New York sued Texas to get the legal certified votes of Texas thrown out. What say you Texas? Would you really like it if some other state tried to get your legal State Certified votes thrown out?

Donald Trump has now lost or withdrawn from over 50 lawsuits. The Supreme Court denial was the second time the Supreme Court denied and shot down the hopes of the present President in the last two weeks.

In addition to being denied twice by the Supreme Court, the 50 or so other cases were lost or withdrawn for one simple reason. The President’s lawyers were unable to present any significant evidence that showed widespread fraud. The lawyers claimed widespread fraud when being televised outside of the courts, but when they got inside the courts and were requested to present evidence they were unable to do so.

Like “Mexico will pay for the wall.”, like “15 cases today, in a few days 2 or 3, then the Coronavirus will be gone “, like just before the election, at multiple rallies, where the President said, “Covid, Covid, Covid, that is all you hear. On November 4th, you won’t hear about it…it will be gone.” There were no facts or reality to the claims.

Well, Covid is not gone, but maybe Donald Trump will be gone from the White House.

On the Coronavirus/Covid front, as I come to the close of this blog post, cases are now averaging 200,000 to 300,000 a day, deaths 2,000 to 3,000 a day. Hospitalizations of Coronavirus cases are also now are at an all time high…over 108,000 people are in hospitals sick from Covid. In many hospitals, they are running out of beds to accommodate the rising flood of Coronavirus cases.

I would like to end on a truly good and hopeful note. On this day, the Pfizer vaccine has now been officially approved by the FDA. That probably was helped a little by the nudging of the White House who told Stephen Hahn, the head of the FDA, if he did not approve the Pfizer vaccine that very day, he would have to resign that very day. So, when faced with put up or shut up, the FDA put up.

Let us hope all the hurdles, all the difficulties and all the potential problems that now face the country in deploying the vaccine and getting it safely into peoples arms are now quickly overcome. Let us hope soon the Coronavirus will be truly gone and soon we will hear no more about Covid.

PostScript – 1/14/21

I said at the beginning of this story that subsequent events might change some things.

That has proved true. Events have changed the ending, have changed the perception of these last weeks and have changed our Democracy. From the very beginning, from the moment Donald Trump was elected President, I expressed fear and doubt about his Presidency – see “I Go For A Row In the Dark and Ponder The Donald”.

It seems my premonition about a Trump Presidency had some basis in truth.

Three weeks before Donald Trump was to end his term in office, the President encouraged his followers to protest the results of the election. Several thousand of his followers gathered in Washington and, then after hearing a speech by the President at this demonstration, thousands of those followers marched on Congress and physically broke in while Congress was in the process of confirming the certified results of the Electoral College. Several people died and extensive physical damage was done.

This fellow, an avid fan of the Q-anon conspiracy theory, thought it would be a good idea to enter the Congress of the United States to protest election results along with several thousand other agitated folks. Apparently, he was unfamiliar with the term “sedition”. He has since been arrested and will soon be prosecuted.

These events disturbed Congress and within a week they impeached the President for the second time, making Donald Trump the one and only U.S. President to be impeached twice in the history of The United States.

Had President Trump simply acknowledged that he lost an election and not encouraged his followers to protest, he would have gone down in history as a President with many achievements. 

While it is easy to disagree with the reasons, for most of Donald Trump’s Administration, the U.S. economy prospered. Other achievements occurred. Peace agreements were reached in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern countries, Isis was defeated and the country reduced its troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Donald Trump’s idea of “America First” was popular with many people in this country. Donald Trump’s confrontation with China on the trade deficit and national security also had many adherents. Whether these policies were good in the long term will be debated in the future, but the fact is that they were enthusiastically supported by many Americans.

Finally, his program to build a wall on our Southern border and reduce incoming immigrants coming into this country was thought by many to be a good policy.

And while it is absolutely true that the Administration’s response to the Pandemic was uneven and a tragedy in itself, many people might forgive him that because he clearly did not cause the Pandemic. 

I personally disagree with almost all of what the Trump Administration did, thinking those policies to be unfair, unwise and not in the long term interest of the country. That said, many would argue they were true achievements and certainly if Donald Trump had learned to just admit that he lost, his legacy would be different. But like Icarus, he flew too close to the sun and the wax that held his feathered wings melted and he fell from the sky.

As we know from the last days of Donald Trump in office, he not only lost the election for himself, he lost the election for the Republican Party, specifically in Georgia, but nationally as well. In insisting falsely that he won, he incited some of his followers to storm Congress. Had he read American history, he would have discovered that inciting a riot to overturn the Government is not a legal act, but, according to reports, reading was not his thing.

No doubt, if Fox News or CNN or any left or right wing media had known in advance that the Congress was going to be stormed, they would have analyzed the legal ramifications of that and pointed out that it might result in the impeachment of the President. Perhaps, the President would have watched those news reports and acted differently. Of course, no media – left, right or in the middle – anticipated that the Congress of United States would be stormed and so Donald Trump had only his gut to go on and his gut said Go Ahead.

It was a sad story of hubris at its highest.

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Montauk in the Time of the Coronavirus

Some Things Change, Others Do Not

By Cecil Hoge

My wife and I have often taken a summer vacation in Montauk. We did last summer and because of the Coronavirus and the fact that Montauk is nearby, we decided to do the same this summer. The drive out to Montauk was relatively easy. I took the most direct route from Setauket – Nicholls Road to 27 to Southampton. From there we wisely chose the back road through North Sea to Sag Harbor taking 114 through to Easthampton, and then Main Street through town to Amagansett and then on to Montauk. There was surprising little traffic on that summer day and the trip took less than two hours.

Once out in Montauk, we wisely headed to Gossman’s for lunch. This was doubly wise since our hotel room was not ready and we were getting hungry. My wife and I have not had much opportunity to eat out in the last several months, so we were looking forward to make up for lost ground.

This sign greets you as you enter the little village of Montauk

Coming through town, there was a large sign on the right warning people to wear a mask and stay at least 6’ apart. As we passed through Main Street it was obvious that most people, if not all, were observing this new edict. It was strange watching tourists and visitors and residents walking along the sidewalks, all with masks, but that was to be expected in this time of the Coronavirus.

Taking the circle in the center of town to left, we headed for Montauk Harbor. Soon, we were pulling into Gossman’s. This restaurant is fortunate to have a lot of open space and outside seating. And equally important, it was a bright and sunny and warm day. Walking into the restaurant the scene was much like the summer before, with tables and seats almost fully occupied. People sitting at the tables looked just like they did the summer before, smiling, joking, laughing and chatting, their faces free of masks. I did notice that the inside of the restaurant was empty, occupied only by a few waiters rushing back and forth, bringing trays of foods and drinks out and trays of empty plates and glasses back. There was a waiting line with people wearing masks and standing by a lady taking down names behind a small stand. 

After a 15 minute wait, we were comfortably seated overlooking the water. I have to say the food and the service were both great. Gossman’s, as perhaps is true of many an older restaurant, has gone through many changes and often the food and service were not, how shall I phrase it, the best you might expect. That said, the ambiance of sitting by the inlet and watching boats come and go makes up for a lot, even when the food is not the best. That turned out to not be a concern this time. Food and drink came promptly and actually seemed better than it ever has been.

One constant with Gossman’s has remained the same and that is, it was always pricey. So no matter whether the food was good or lackluster, you can depend on being impressed by the check.

At the outside tables, eating and drinking outside took on a familiar feel. I have to say I am in the camp that believes it is fairly safe to eat outside. My wife also agrees with that. So, our meal outside was really pleasant and carefree and, if one closed your eyes and forgot that everyone coming into the restaurant were wearing masks, all would seem normal, except of course, for the large unoccupied indoor part of the restaurant.

A pleasant surprise was just how good the food was. My wife and I shared oysters and they were truly excellent…fresh, clean, plump and naturally salty as they should be. Apparently, they are being farmed locally in Lake Montauk, so they were truly fresh and clean. My wife went on to have the salmon while I settled on lobster tails. My lobster tails were great and she lavishly praised the salmon. So, both meals were excellent and much appreciated after not dining out for many a day. I did notice that when the check came it seemed about 30% higher than the year before. Yes, $154 pre-tip seemed high, especially considering that the only drinks we had was two glasses of wine and a bottle of sparkling water.

But we did not mind, the meal was great, the ambiance was great and we could now head back and check in our motel by the sea.

I would interrupt here to say that the diet and lifestyle we had been living since the Coronavirus had taken hold left something to be desired. Take out dinners, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and even cooked in meals had all become stale and quite weird. And since I was still a working man, my life as both a remote worker and sometimes office worker had also been pretty weird. Wearing face masks and rubber gloves in my own office was truly strange, but then the times were truly strange.

I must say I did come to have a new appreciation of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches…I think I began to channel my early life as young boy when I lived on those two joyful substances, day and night, winter, spring, summer and fall.

It is true, since the restrictions around the Coronavirus had been recently softened, my wife and I had taken the opportunity to have a few lunches out in our local area of Setauket and Port Jefferson. Still, the chance for a nice “normal” lunch out in Montauk while sitting overlooking Gardener’s Bay and Lake Montauk was a true pleasure.

The hotel/motel we had selected was the WaveCrest. It is located about a mile and half west of town, directly on the beach. We had stayed at the WaveCrest many times before. To be sure, there are fancier, better heeled places, with more luxurious accommodations, but the WaveCrest offered pretty much everything we were interested in… a direct view of the ocean, a short walk to the beach and ocean and a hidden benefit, Steve’s WaveCrave food truck. That was to prove invaluable in the time of the Coronavirus.

Once in our room, sitting on the outside porch directly overlooking the beach, we could get a lay of the land. People were on the beach as ever…sitting under umbrellas, girls laying their back, their bikini top straps loose, their backs gleaming with lotion, boys and girls were out on the beach soaking up the sun. Families were gathered around on beach chairs shaded by umbrellas in a circle, coolers full of beer, drinks and sodas. Masks were nowhere to be seen. Overlooking the beach from our shaded porch, all seemed in order, as it ever was.

Off to the right, away from the lounge chairs, the umbrellas and the sunbathers, two fathers were throwing a small plastic football with their two sons, one father gathering weight around the waist, slowing, but still with the old football throw, the other father, more in shape, but also thickening around the waist, but still with a strong, hard throw, one of the kids diving for the plastic football which bounces off his small chest. That must have hurt, but the kid gets up, runs over to the ricocheted ball and throws it back. The throw goes high and short, the hit to the chest must have caused the kid a loss of timing and breath.

The two kids both have good throws, the two fathers also. I am guessing the fathers played team ball…high school or college. The heavier one is definitely the slower one. The toll of time beginning its relentless roll from youth to middle age. It is a normal beach scene, one you would have seen the summer before…one that you might see any year out in Montauk.

Me, my shadow, some foot prints and the beach just east of the WaveCrest.

That evening, I took a walk along the beach. The walk in the sand is somewhat arduous, somewhat surprising…the sand giving way with each step, making you feel that your progress is impeded by the soft sand. And it is surely true that it is easier to walk on a hard surface than a soft surface. Of course, I knew that and I expected that. After a few hundred yards of walking along the beach, my legs become more accustomed to the giving nature of sand. I walk on, passing beach front houses perched high in the sand dune hills that are features of the topography just east of Hither Hills.

I walk east about 3/4 of a mile with the declining sun at my back. I get to Gurney’s Inn Beach. At that time of the afternoon – 5:30 pm – the beach crowd at Gurney’s has thinned out, the cabanas are mostly empty, the life guards are no longer in their high chairs and there are only a few walkers or runners or anglers to be seen. That being enough of a walk, I turn back with sun slowly going down as I walk towards the WaveCrest.

When I come back to the room, my wife is reviewing movie choices on the TV which are limited at best. The WaveCrest has the same cable system we have at home, but with a trimmed down selection of programs. I grab a seltzer from the small refrigerator in the room and walk out on the small porch to watch the dimming light of the sun as it fades behind the sand dunes. The beach is now empty of walkers and runners. There is only the sound of breaking ocean waves, and the sight of the waves in the dimming light washing up on the beach and then receding. The endless commotion of the sea washes out any noise coming from the TV inside the room. I sit sipping my seltzer for a good 30 minutes, content to watch the ever dimmer light descend over the beach in front of me. Yes, some things change, but other things stay the same.

So the first day went just the way we liked it.

The next day we get up, have couple of cups of coffee on the porch – there is a small kitchenette in our room and my wife, knowing the importance of coffee, has used the included coffee pot to brew several cups. We watch the beach as the first people walk onto to it and go about whatever it is they wish to go about. Fishermen set up their rods and buckets, cast out their lines…walkers, some solo, some couples, walk the early morning beach, some walking in the direction of Hither Hills State Park to the west, some walking towards Gurney’s Inn to the east.

That morning we see a thick school of fish cruising along the shore 50 to a 100 yards out, a white line of commotion 25 feet wide, a couple of hundred feet long. A Montauk fisherman is on the beach casting out and pulling them in…they are some kind of large baitfish, 10” to 16” in length. I am not sure why the Montauk fisherman is making such an effort to catch and pull them in, considering their small size. Perhaps, he wants them for bait for larger fish. I know he is a Montauk fisherman because I have seen him driving up in the 4-wheel drive truck. On the truck it said “Blackwater Charter Expeditions”. I asked him about it.

“That’s my charter business.” From the tone of his voice and the lack of enthusiasm in it, I gather the charter business is not his main gig. 

Steve’s WaveCrave truck was a true asset in the time of the Coronavirus. Our room was in the building just beside the WaveCrave about 50 feet away. Talk about convenience.

That morning we decide to take advantage of Steve’s WaveCrave food truck. Steve and his wife manage it. After a quick hello and ordering, I ask how the season has been.

”Very stressful, but it ended good” he says.

I gather that at the beginning of the year, it was hard for him to know if he could even open.

“We couldn’t open until June,” he says.

But now that he has opened and the season has gone surprisingly well and he tells me he is satisfied.

What is really surprising about Steve’s WaveCrave truck is how amazingly good it is. I order what known as a “Basic Joe” (2 eggs over medium with cheese and sausage on a roll) and for my wife, a “Nancy Atlas” (an egg wrap sandwich with avocado). After taking the sandwiches back to our room, we sit on the outside porch overlooking the beach and munch our breakfasts happily. After the WaveCrest breakfast is washed down with several cups of my wife’s coffee, we feel like the day has started with a solid foundation.

Normally, in pre Coronavirus times, we would have gone to John’s Pancake house, but when we passed it the day before we could not help but notice that it was totally packed both inside and out with a line people waiting to get a seat. If that was the situation in the afternoon we could only imagine what would be like when people eat pancakes.

After breakfast I hit the ocean. My wife stayed on the porch of our room…content to oversee my activities and read a book. The waves were not great, but they were large enough to dive and occasionally body surf. It was all good. I came back duly salted, refreshed and reborn. The ocean has a special place in my heart.

After taking an hour or so to sit on the porch and enjoy the beach scene before us, we notice the lunch hour creeping up fast. We decide to go for a ceremonial drive around Montauk checking out the various points of interest…the harbor, Montauk Point, The Lighthouse, America’s Oldest Ranch, East Lake, West Lake, Fort Pond, Duryeas…they were all still there. On our drive to East Lake, we stopped to have lunch at the Crabby Cowboy. It is not the finest fare, but it is located overlooking Lake Montauk and has a fine view of an adjoining marina and the lake. As an added bonus, my wife tries a can of some Long Island wine raised, picked, squished and fermented in Mattituck, Long Island, about 30 miles away as the crow or seagull flies. It is a little longer as the car drives since you have to navigate around Peconic Bay to get to Mattituck.

The cost was reasonable – about half of what a lunch would have cost at Gossman’s. We split some Buffalo Chicken wings, had a couple of hamburgers with French fries and Cole slaw – maybe not so good for our health, but still yummy in the tummy. They had a interesting Coronavirus ordering system – you are given a piece of paper to fill out your order as you walk in the entrance where a sign says, “No mask, No service”. You bring the filled out menu up to a window. You pay and they give you your drinks – a can of wine for my wife, a seltzer for me. Then you bring your drinks back to picnic table of your choice and settle in. It was a warm and breezy day. So we sat with the wind blowing and the sun shining. We had an excellent view of the lake and some floating oyster pods where oysters are being grown…the same oysters we had partaken of the day before.

My wife never heard of a wine being delivered in a can, but there it was and from the smile on her face, I concluded it was not half bad.

In a few minutes a waiter delivered our lunch in a shopping bag. Nice touch. It is up to us to pull it out. It was kind of like a picnic where we did not bring the food. All in all, it was surprising good.

On the way back, we stopped at what was the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Stand. I would note the Ben and Jerry’s name seems to have been deleted, indicating some change of management. No matter, they still serve some kind of ice cream. I am a vanilla ice cream guy. Just as Henry Ford said you can paint his cars with any color you want as long it is black, I will try any flavor of ice cream as long as it is vanilla. My wife, being more adventurous, opted for coffee ice cream. I cannot say if they were still using Ben and Jerry’s real ice cream, but I can say it was awful tasty.

We took our ice cream back to the WaveCrest, sat on our front porch and fattened ourselves as we watched the waves break on the shore in front of us and people laying about the beach and frolicking in the ocean. It was fine way to spend the fading hours of a sunny afternoon.

One of the things I was curious about was what effect the Coronavirus would have on Montauk and the people visiting Montauk in the summer? What would happen with the restaurants, the bars, the shops? I cannot say that after 2 days all seemed normal, but I can say that the town seemed to be adapting to the situation. I sensed a new somber reality to summer…on the main drag in town or on the beach, people seemed afraid to engage and talk, they kept their distance, if you wandered a little close to them on a sidewalk or the beach, they were liable to give you a wide birth. And just the sight of people wearing masks on the streets gave a different feeling.

Other than that, the restaurants we visited seemed relatively normal. The tables were mostly full and people at the tables took their masks off. The people sat eating and drinking as they always do…munching their meals leisurely, sipping their drinks, laughing, smiling, talking…couples holding hands, families gathered around at a table, kids running about, not quite sure what social distancing is.

That evening, I went for another walk on the beach. This is a normal pattern of my vacations in Montauk. I usually take a walk out the beach, usually in the direction Gurney’s. There and back is an easy walk, about a mile and half, not too long to be tiring, long enough to feel exercised and refreshed.

As I walk along the beach, waves, as usual, are washing up on the sand and spilling over small embankments near where I am walking. The water rushes over footprints, beach buggy tracks, bird prints, dog prints and truck tracks, erasing them and then almost instantly the salt water sinks into the now swept sand. A thick line of froth rides at the front of each advancing wave. The foamy froth lasts longer than the water when it comes to rest, settling on top of the sand, the bubbles of the froth being blown out gradually by the wind, some bubbles popping by themselves and collapsing. Only a salty, darker residue remains and that portion of sand now seems swept clean of human intervention.

Some stronger waves rush over the embankment ridge that I am walking along and threaten to get me wet. I alter my course occasionally and scuttling off to higher ground to avoid getting my sneakers wet. It is a cat and mouse game I play with the ocean, with the ocean being the cat and me being the mouse.

Strangers, other walkers or runners, some girls, some guys, some couples, some old, some young, walk or run along the same beach, we wave to each other, saying no words in this time of the Coronavirus, our hands making small gentle gestures of hello. Some are going in my direction slower or faster than me, always no words or conversations are passed, only the small hand gestures. And of course, social distancing is observed and nobody is going to stop and chit chat with a stranger. No, the times are too precarious for that.

One of the concerns I had about the Coronavirus and vacation in Montauk is what effects would I see as I wandered about. I cannot say that I saw obvious signs of great changes. There were a few restaurants that seemed not to re-open. There were a few stores that seemed to have been vacated. But other than the absence of some businesses, much seemed normal. The town seemed teeming with visitors and vacationers. Restaurants with outdoor seating seemed busy.

Breakfast places in town, like John’s Pancake House, seemed fully booked now with extra outdoor seating and people waiting on the sidewalk trying to get a table. The Main Street of Montauk seemed busy as usual. But I noticed not many people were entering the stores and if they were, it was selective. There was a crowd around John’s Pancake House, the bakery, the coffee shop, but gift shops seemed less occupied. An exception to that seemed to be the surf shop at the end of town. It seemed to have as many customers as John’s Pancake House.

I made a trip the next day to White’s, the local pharmacy in the center of town, to get some toothpaste and other necessities. Entry was not easy. The front door was locked and a sign advised that you had to walk through a side alley and around to get into the rear entrance. I am not quite sure what the reason was. Either they did not have enough people to man or woman the store or they did not trust customers, thinking they might run off with some of the store’s precious goods or they wanted to restrict the number customers. Or maybe there was some perfectly good health reason that I could not discern for their rear entrance and exit policy.

One thing was sure, you could not social distance very well if a customer was coming through the rear entrance as you were leaving. The store was unusually empty for summer day and there still was a line at the counter in spite of fact that there was only 4 people in the store. In any case, I was able to get my selected goods, pay and get out without bumping into anyone.

My wife was lucky enough to get this shot of a whale just off of our beach. You do not see that every day! Please excuse the grainy look…some resolution was lost in the process of cropping the picture.

After we got back to the room that morning, we saw a whale rising out of the ocean not far from the shore. It was the first of many whales that we saw during our stay.

That day, because it was rainy and windy, we had breakfast in the room. My wife, a believer in backup, had brought ample supplies to get us going that morning. Coffee, cereal, fruit, cold salmon, cheese and nuts…it was a healthy start to a dreary day and as we watched the rain come down in sheets outside.

Later, after watching some obligatory tube giving weather updates and other lackadaisical activity, we decided to take advantage of Steve’s WaveCrave for lunch. This time we went for Steve’s Famous Lobster Sandwich which well deserves its name. Steve has an unusual theory on how to make a lobster sandwich, deciding to make it with whole chunks of lobster lathered with butter, rather than cutting up bits and pieces of lobsters and adding mayonnaise and other filler ingredients. Steve then takes the whole chunks of buttered lobster and places them on a bun. The result is buttered lobster on a bun…quite yummy!

At Steve’s food truck, I met a ConEd employee from the city while standing in line waiting for my lobster sandwiches. Of course, we were social distancing appropriately, both wearing masks and standing 6 feet apart. In the short time there, I was able to get a conversation in and so I learned some interesting information from the ConEd guy. It turns out that he worked in Queens and was very busy running around the city installing WiFi connections for all the people trying to work remotely. 

“It’s really weird,” he said, “I got a brunch of buddies who were laid off and I am out all over the city working my ass off.”

”The demand for the stuff I do is through the roof,” he said, “I love the work and am glad I have a job, but I am so happy to get out to Montauk and get a break.”

And then he turned a little bit pensive:

”I’m from Queens. We don’t see the stuff we see here…the open space, the clean air. We don’t get to see the ocean, we don’t see whales and dolphins running just offshore. It is just unbelievable, I love it.”

I would have launched further into the conversation, but my lobster sandwiches were ready. So, I said nice to talk to you, grabbed my sandwiches and headed back to the room. My wife and I enjoyed those sitting out on the covered porch watching the rain come down…just back from the wet action, but still outside and dry.

That afternoon, I took the opportunity to dig further into a book I brought along for the occasion. It was about why reconstruction failed after the Civil War. It recounted the story of how the emancipation of slaves and the installation of Carpetbagger/Scalawag politicians from the North and former black slaves turned elected Republican officials got reversed by the white Democrats in the State of Louisiana. Things were complicated back then. Maybe just as complicated as they are today…although instead of sorting out the winners and losers, North and South, from the Civil War, we are sorting out a badly damaged economy, widespread protests and civil unrest, record unemployment, a raging worldwide Pandemic and an upcoming Presidential election.

No matter to all of that, back in Montauk, it was a quiet day off…no swimming, no outdoor meals…just reading, some tube time and lots of rest. In short, it was just what the doctor ordered.

The next day the sun came back as it often does after rain and the sand on the beach slowly changed from a darker shade of color to a lighter shade as the sun warmed and dried the sands. We had breakfast in the room and by and by, when I deemed the sand had warmed enough, I went for a swim in the ocean while my wife settled in to our porch for some more reading.

The wind was from the northwest, smoothing out and throwing up the waves, giving them perfect formation and me an opportunity for some really enjoyable body-surfing. After 5 or 6 pretty good rides, I came in, feeling new and refreshed.

Later that day we decided to go to an old haunt of ours for lunch. That would be Duryeas. When we first went out to Montauk it used to be a simple place with some basic picnic tables and a small counter to place an order for fresh seafood. After ordering, you came back to your picnic table, made of 2 x 4s painted white…very sturdy, but not particularly comfortable. A few minutes after you were called up and then you went over to the counter and picked up your order. After that, it was only necessary to walk back and spread your feast over the wooden picnic table.

It was simple fare and a great place to have fresh lobster. At the time, Duryeas was a lobster and shellfish harvesting company, so you could always depend on the lobsters or the clams or the oysters being fresh. The restaurant was just a side offering of the shellfish gathering business. But times change and so has Duryeas. This summer it has gone uptown, with fancier layout, nicer tables, fancier fare and even fancier prices.

Presently, it seems more celeb oriented, with lots of handsome folks who might be actors or movie directors or hedge fund folks or just plain well-healed rich people. There was a line even though it was a Tuesday. Two young ladies stood behind a wooden gateway stand trying make sure everyone was seated in the order that they thought they should be seated.

From the crowded tables ahead of us and the even more crowded line directly in front of us, it was quite obvious that the place was prospering. After a suitable wait, we found ourselves seated out on a dock with brisk wind and a grand view of Gardener’s Bay. The ordering system was interesting and still relatively simple. They brought you your choice of flat water or sparkling water and menu list to mark. After marking that, you had to make your way to two counters with two young ladies behind plexiglass taking orders. You hand in your order sheet, she happily inputs your scribbles into the computer and then asks you what kind of tip you want to apply.

I usually like to add tips at the end of the meal after I know something about the meal I had, but this system assumed you would prefer to tip before your meal. And so I did. Because I could see I was now in an uptown place, I went with 20%. I did restrain myself from taking the 25% tip opportunity.

Having given in our order, I went back to my wife who was diligently trying to hold down our napkins in the quite brisk breeze. At the end of the dock were a couple of really fancy motor craft. While we’re waiting for our meal (oysters, French fries and blackened Branzino) to arrive, a parade of beautiful young ladies marched by…young models that seemed to have been selected by Jeffrey Epstein himself. The young beauties walked by, their hands playing with their hair as it went this way and that in the wind, trendy sunglasses shielding their sensitive eyes. They walked down the dock and then onto one of the million dollar motor crafts.

Now this vehicle was no doubt just a tender boat for some larger dream yacht, but the tender was a good 50 feet itself and it seemed to have no problems accommodating the 14 young ladies. They immediately stationed themselves on various prominent parts of the motor craft, looking good, their hair fluttering in the brisk wind, the trendy sunglasses protecting their peepers. They were dressed appropriately in brief summer wear…with midriffs and long legs showing.

Shortly thereafter, we heard the purr of 1200 horse power or more warming up, lines were disengaged and off the ladies went out into Gardener’s Bay, no doubt to meet some new mogul trying emulate the life and times of Jeffrey Epstein. You know what our President said about Jeffrey:

”He’s a great guy and really likes the ladies like I do, but I hear he likes them on the young side.”

And so it goes in Montauk.

In short order our oysters and French fries arrived. They served as a delicious bridge to the main course. I do not know what you have to do to make the French fries as good as they were, but the new management had obviously applied their secret sauce. We had good time keeping our napkins from flying into the bay below as we downloaded the oysters and fries. By and by, the main course arrived – it was beauty – the whole Branzino, head and all, was served with some truly delicious vegetables along the side. My wife was so excited she sent me off to retrieve another glass of white wine. This precipitated a second trip to the ordering counter.

Inside, around the corner from the 2 order counters, I saw there was an inside room with a large selection of fresh oysters, shellfish and other kinds of fish on display, laid out beautifully on chopped ice under glass. It was very impressive. Wow, I thought, you get to see what can order before adding the tip. Also, on display, was an impressive display of wine bottles, aperitifs and after dinner liqueurs. It was all very uptown. Back at the counter, the girl took another swipe on my credit card and 24 dollars later I was on my way back to the table. By some magic, the glass of wine arrived before me.

Anyway, it was all good, even if the total bill for 2 was cruising well over $200. And after such a fine meal, there was only one other thing to do. Swing by the ice cream stand and collect some before going to bring back to the room. That didn’t work out too well, since it turned out the ice cream stand was having some kind of management issue. Apparently, one or two of the employees failed to show up and there was only one poor girl trying to take orders at the order window and make ice cream cones behind the service counter with a line of 5 or 6 families angrily waiting for their ordered goods. That was not easy to do since the order window was a good 20 feet from the service counter. The situation, in short, was hopeless.

I decided to move on to John’s Drive-in. That was on the way back to the motel just as you head out of Montauk Village. John’s Drive-in (not to be confused with John’s Pancake House, although the ownership may be related) had people waiting for ice cream, but fortunately they also had people to serve the orders almost as fast people came in. Within a few minutes, my wife and I were ice cream enabled and we headed back to enjoy our desert for the day while we overlooked the ocean from our porch.

Later that day, just about the time we were finishing up respective servings of ice cream, a small plane flew by dragging a large banner, maybe 10 feet high by 30 feet long. Because the wind was still pretty brisk and the plane was fairly high up, it was difficult to read the banner. What I could see clearly were the words: “Feel Even Calmer”. Next to the words was an image of a can that also had a name on it, but unfortunately, the plane and the banner were a little too high to read. I presumed it was the name of whatever was in the can. Alas, on that day, I was not learn what would make me “Feel Even Calmer”. Talk about stress.

Just to shake off the stress, I went for another swim in the surf and later, as the sun fell behind the dunes, I also went for walk on the beach.

It was not until 2 days later when another plane came by dragging the same banner. This time the banner was closer and I got to read the name on the can – it said “Recess”. So, I guess the point of this marketing effort was to promote a new product called “Recess” that would make you “Feel Even Calmer”. That was good information to know as I pondered the changing systems of marketing in this new age. 

These natural wooden protrusions were seemingly put in place for some reason just to the right of our room. The fog provided an other worldly look and the sign advised that Hither Hill State Park was just beyond.

We spent most days of our vacation with an almost identical routine. We would have breakfast at the WaveCrave. I would alternate between “Basic Joe” egg and cheese sandwiches with sausage and “Basic Joe” egg sandwiches with bacon. My wife, being more adventurous than me, would choose “Nancy Atlas Egg Wraps” and “Australian Egg Wraps”.

After breakfast my wife would settle in with a good book or her trusty iPad Pro while I would go for a swim in the surf. On a couple of days we took out my trusty inflatable kayak on Fort Pond and paddled for an hour or so. Then to lunch, which ranged from reasonable (Salvadore’s, Crabby Cowboy or Navy Beach) and not so great or unreasonable (Gossman’s or Duryeas) and quite good. We did hit Duryeas one more time and they outdid themselves by charging more than $250. Go Duryeas!

After lunching, we might check out a few shops, careful to wear masks and social distance. Then, on to pick up some ice cream and back to the room. Usually, about an hour after digesting my ice cream, I would go on a walk on the beach to Gurney’s Inn and back.

It was all very unexciting and boring and restful and wonderful and healthy. And soon, as all things do, our vacation was drawing to a close.

There was always the sound of the surf.

And in the background and in front of our room, there was always the continual sound of the ocean waves breaking upon the beach…first rising, then crashing, then rushing forward and then receding…a continual commotion of rising and falling sounds, a kind of roar, as the sands of the beach were picked up by the incoming water and then pulled back…sounding like a drummer with a soft and subtle brush.

I could not help but wonder as I would have seltzers on the porch and sit overlooking the ocean: What was going to happen to Montauk as fall and winter closed in? No doubt restaurants and bars and shops would close as many do at the end of the season, but some who normally dared to stay open all year would have to make decision: Was it worth it to stay open all year around this year? No doubt most summer folks would head back to the cities and towns they normally live in. That would leave fishermen and Montauk residents and perhaps a few city refugees facing a winter of cold quiet. For, as we were getting ready to leave Montauk, the Coronavirus was in evidence everywhere and it seemed certain it would not go quietly into that good night.

While we were on vacation, the stock markets of the United States reached and stayed at or close to all time highs, seemingly unaware that 20 million Americans were still out of work. I had long given up trying to understand why stock markets could be so buoyant in times of economic difficulties. Of course, it must be admitted that the present economic difficulties did not come from economic policies, but rather from a strange virus that rose up out of nowhere like some beast of monstrous size in a SciFi movie. But we were not living in a SciFi movie, we were living in real life.

As our vacation came to end and we drove back to Setauket, I also wondered what the Fall and Winter would bring. As I am finishing up this blog story, Coronavirus cases are once again advancing with over 50,000 cases averaging daily this week. While long predicted, it seems as the weather gets colder and winter approaches, a 3rd wave of the Coronavirus is coming. How strong that will be and what effects it causes are still unknown, but it seems sure this is a period of doubt and dismay.

While we were in Montauk we saw a lot of whales, some close to shore, some further out. We also saw schools of bluefish and baitfish and striped bass swimming by in streams. We also saw dolphins sporting and jumping offshore and once, I saw a seal raise its head from the sea, look around and then disappear. It was nice to see that other life still resides in the sea. And it was nice to see families and couples and singles, old and young, all out on the beach, sunning and running and walking themselves, throwing frisbees and footballs, hitting shuttleclocks and volleyballs over nets, sitting under umbrellas or out in open warming themselves or lathering up with sunscreen, sipping sodas or wine or beer, laughing and smiling as they huddled to together by themselves or in groups on the beach.

On most nights while we were in Montauk, some of the WaveCrest guest would go out on the beach with flashlights and radios and light fires and sit around in groups. That was legal at the WaveCrest, although from the frown on my wife’s face, she thought it must be breaking some law somewhere. No matter, the WaveCrest guests gathered in groups in the evenings and sat on the beach around fires, their voices raised higher with the benefit of adult beverages, laughing and shouting and listening to music, no longer aware of the Coronavirus and what further discomforts it might bring this Fall and Winter. I can only wish them well.

I have long thought that there are two worlds. The world we live in…the indoor world of houses, air-conditioning and heating, in offices or restaurants or theaters. And then there is the other world…the outdoor world with flowers and grasses and beaches, with hills and mountains and valleys and dunes and bays and lakes and rivers and ponds and oceans, with other life teaming throughout, some of that life unaware of us humans, other parts of that life all too aware, some thriving along with us, others striving just to survive. Of the two worlds…the indoor and the outdoor world…I have always felt the outdoor world was the more real, the more beautiful and the more permanent.

An ominous cloud and sea view from our room one morning.

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Paddling in a Pandemic – There Be Fog – Chapter 4

As I come into Little Bay, a dull gray fog hangs over my bay. Ahead of me, a Cormorant paddles on the water…you can just make out the small black outline of that bird in the distance.

By Cecil Hoge

June 18, 2020

“Nebbia” is the Italian word for fog. Some ancient Italian writer once said “Nebbia always brings change”. I am thinking it must be so as I paddle into my fog-shrouded bay. But what change is coming I wonder?

The weather on this day is naturally humid and warm – the temperature is in the mid 70s. It feels cool, wet and warm…all the same time. The grey fog that hangs over the bay gives the day a feeling unreality, as if I am paddling in mixed soup composed of water and clouds and mist with no clear demarcation where one begins and the others end.

I like paddling on these kind of days. It makes me feel I am in a faraway land of oxygen, water and mist. I often imagine that I might enter a dense fog bank, paddle through it in almost blindness and then emerge in a different time and place.

But paddling today does not dispel what is happening in the country and when I return from my paddle I almost instantly digitally informed of new events.

Today, another million and half people have applied for unemployment, bringing the total of unemployment claims since the Pandemic up to over 45,000,000. According to today’s report, 20 million people are still receiving monies from their unemployment claims. What happened with the other 25 million I am not sure. Did they get their jobs back? Maybe. Are they in some nebulous “fogland” between working and not working? 

What will happen, I wonder, when the 20,000,000 plus people who do receive unemployment benefits find that their extra $600 a week has been cancelled on July 25th, as it is presently scheduled to be. Will they all go back to work? So many questions…not many answers.

It is a confusing time…the stock markets continue to hover above it all, as the fog hovers above my bay. Restaurants and bars are trying to open up. In many cases, they seem to be using a kind of Deli ordering system – you go to a window, give your order and then sit-down at an outside table and wait to be called. After a while they call your name and you go pick it  up and bring it back to a table. Some restaurants do have waiters that actually call on your table, but many only do that on the weekends when it is sure to be crazy busy.

Construction of buildings and houses on Long Island has started up again. In Port Jefferson, as I come into town, I see a new apartment building rising up. For about 2 months it sat partially started with only one floor in place, right next to another 3 story apartment complex. Now the beginnings of a second story has been added and I see signs a third story starting in some places. Soon, I guess, the building will rise higher to a third or even fourth story. 

That might not please the the folks next door in the other recently finished apartment building. That building was completed and fully occupied about a year ago. Now the folks next to the new apartment complex going up will have the opportunity to have a closeup view of their new neighbors. So progress goes on and the town is growing up and maybe not everybody will be happy with it.

Me, I wonder if the new apartment complex now being finished will ever be fully occupied? We shall see, as our President says.

In Newsday, the local newspaper, there is an article that 48,000 thousand jobs have been added this month – that is good news. The paper goes on to say that there are still 250,000 people who lost their jobs during the Coronavirus not yet back to work. So now the real question is when can they expect to get their jobs back? 

There are other things happening in this country as I paddle out onto my foggy bay. The President is planning a big rally of his folks in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Apparently, 100,000 people are expected to attend this coming Saturday. Originally, it was scheduled to take place June 19th, but then it was discovered that date coincided with Juneteenth, aka as Freedom Day, an unofficial holiday commemorating the fact that all slaves were free in Texas. That original date was June 19th, 1865.

Considering the fact that there are large scale protests still occurring across the country because of the death of George Floyd, the President decided that the timing might not be great, so the rally was moved one day later to June 20th. The fact that this event is even scheduled has created concern among health experts who point out that maybe it is not good idea for 100,000 people to gather together during a Pandemic. Apparently, the President and his team are not concerned. They are going hand out masks, take temperatures and give rousing speeches. Of course, it will not be required that everyone wear a mask because that would infringe on the freedom of the Trumpites, not mention hide their good looks…heavens to purgatory.

So, the rally is scheduled to proceed. If you ask me, it is an interesting experiment. If 100,000 Trump believers want to gather together in and around a building that certainly is their privilege. Trump team members have sagaciously set up a large outside area to handle the overflow – the stadium itself can only handle 19,000 avid Trumpites.

That gives health officials and Trumpites a great test of who is right. If no cases of the Coronavirus emerge, the Trumpites can tell all the world that this gathering never posed a danger and the Coronavirus is over and done with and a hoax to boot. And if the health officials and doctors prove right, there will be a few less people able to vote for our President this coming fall.

So I see this as great put up or shut up moment. The President and his team and 100,000 of his followers are submitting themselves to a science experiment. Given the fact that it takes several weeks for the Coronavirus to infect people and then make them sick, we will have to wait a month or so to see what happens. Perhaps, I should hold this story open until the end July to have good understanding of who is right and who is wrong.

We shall see, as our President says.

The blue sky, the puffy white clouds on this day – the scheduled thunderstorms have failed to appear.

June 24, 2020

The weather has turned hot and steamy today with some thunderstorms scheduled for this afternoon. That turns out to be “fake news” – the thunderstorms prove to be a no show. In fact, later the clouds spread out across a blue sky and a Southwest breeze springs up – see the picture above. Naturally, I take the opportunity to go for a paddle and ponder the wild blue yonder.

So, I head out for a paddle on the open bays and since this is the middle of the week, I find the surrounding bays devoid of people. Only me, my kayak, the bay below, the blue sky above with puffy white cotton candy clouds dotting the blue above. It may be warm and a little bit sticky, but with the Southwest breeze, it is a picture perfect day for a paddle.

Meanwhile, it seems the concerns of health officials about 100,000 Trump fans gathering in Tulsa a few days ago were overblown. According to the Tulsa fire department only 6,200 Trump fans actually showed up. The President’s security guards had a slightly higher estimate for attendees. They thought 8,000 to 10,000 people attended. Naturally, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post all played up the fact that many seats were empty. That must have been galling and disappointing to the President since he predicted all the seats would be sold out and there would be a big overflow crowd of eager Trumpites trying to get in. No such luck, Mr. President. On the good side there were less people to get the Coronavirus.

The President was undeterred and proceeded with another rally in Scottsdale, AZ, another Coronavirus hot spot. There his luck with attendance was better, even if the crowd was smaller. About 3,000 younger Trumpites gathered to hear the President speak and expose themselves to the Coronavirus. So, in a few weeks we can expect to see ever-rising Coronavirus cases in Arizona and shortly thereafter a few less Trump fans. I certainly believe that Americans should exercise their rights to freedom, but I am wondering if becoming ill with the Coronavirus is a smart way to do that.

Out on the bay, paddling on the waters of world, I did not ponder this too deeply. It was a beautiful day and there were no motor boaters crossing my path my path and disturbing my Wa. That is a Japanese word meaning “harmony”. On this day with blue sky above, puffy white clouds hanging within the blue, blue rippling water below, my Wa was in excellent shape.

June 25, 2020 

The President’s Coronavirus Task Force is up and running again. This time the President is a no show and the Vice President was there offering his assessment of the situation. He touted the fact that all 50 States were re-opening. What he said was true until he added one last word – “safely”. So, Vice President Pence almost made through a whole sentence without blatantly lying, but that word “safely” threw the whole sentence off track and in the end the Vice President lied. I understand Pence is religious fellow. I am just wondering if the Vice President has heard of the 9th Commandment which says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor“?

Perhaps, that is not in his bible. Or maybe the term “false witness against thy neighbor” offers the Vice President some wiggle room.

Of course, there will be some who do not think saying we are re-opening 50 States safely was a lie. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but I would point out that the day before it was announced that there over 41,000 new cases of the Coronavirus and later on this day it was announced there were additional 45,000 new cases of the Coronavirus. Both of those numbers were all-time highs of new Coronavirus cases for single day. So, if that ain’t lying or bearing “false witness”, I want to know what is?

Of course, Vice President Pence did not wear a mask at this briefing. That would be unmanly and might reflect poorly on the President. At this Coronavirus Task Force meeting there were 4 other health officials, all of whom were wearing masks. And in fairness to those folks, all of them said just about the opposite of what Pence said.

I would mention that not only was the President not present at the press briefing, but the hour of the briefing was about two hours earlier that previous briefings. So, instead of taking place between 5 and 7 in the prime evening period when news viewership was the highest, it took place between 3 and 4. I leave you to decide why the timing was changed. That day, Texas and Florida decided to pull back their re-opening plans, immediately ordering all bars closed in Texas and Florida. It would seem that some of the rambunctious youths in those States were rambunctiously spreading the Coronavirus.

I understand the temptations of rambunctious youth. I was one myself. Who knows if I was young again and in Florida and Texas, I might be out and about spreading microbes wherever I went. As is, I can only look on at these sad proceedings and say I am sorry. Sorry that the leadership of the country is lying about the Pandemic, sorry that they are doing almost nothing to contain the Pandemic, sorry that the Pandemic is now rising faster than ever before in this country.

In my own world, I did not get a chance go paddling or rowing on this rather beautiful and warm day. I had other duties to attend to.

July 3, 2020

Things are not going well regarding the Coronavirus. The stats seem to be going against all the States that re-opened. It took a few weeks, but now there is a decided increase in cases. The good news is that deaths are still down. Deaths, of course, are what are called “lagging indicators”, so the fact that they are presently down does not mean they will stay down.

The present President looking at jets flying over Mount Rushmore

On this day the President chose to hold a Fireworks Celebration and Rally in South Dakota at Mount Rushmore. Over 6,000 people came to this event. Temperatures were taken, masks were handed out to any who wanted them. Most of the people who attended, being Trumpites, chose, like their President not to don masks. It will take about 6 weeks to find out how many of the people who did not wear masks got infected at that event. A curious aspect of the event was the fact that the chairs zip-tied together insuring that the 3,000 or so people sat on them could not, even if they wished, “social distance”.

Apparently, it a law in the great State of South Dakota for chairs to be zip-tied together at public gatherings so the chairs cannot fly away in a tornado or some such reason. At least, that is what some state official said on TV. As to whether 3,000 people should sit side by with no distance between them, the Governor of the State quite correctly said if people are worried about “social distancing”, they do not have to attend.

The President started his speech to the crowd by offering tribute to some of our most illustrious Americans, some of whom were both founders of the country and slave-owners.

Now some liberal minded people might have said that was not a good idea, coming just after the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter Protests, but the President thought it was important to assure the voters that he, as President, would not forget our rich history.

He then went on to decry the violence from the recent protests:

”Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime.”

The President vowed to do everything in his power to defend against the destruction of historical statues and the wave of violence sweeping America. Not everyone in this country agreed that a wave of violence was sweeping the country.

The “Fake News” crowd, the usual suspects –  CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Washington Post – tried to suggest the while some violence was occurring during these protests, generally the protests were mostly peaceful and that it was actually the right of all Americans to peacefully protest.

Of course, the folks attending the Mount Rushmore event were not buying that.

And so it goes in the Great State of South Dakota.

The next day, the President held another fireworks display/rally in Washington, DC. Attendance was excellent so in the next several weeks we should be able to see an increase of the Coronavirus in Washington, DC. Of course, that would be nothing new. Washington has been suffering various kinds of viruses ever since it became the nation’s capital.

July 5, 2020

The Fourth of July has come and gone in Old Setauket. It was a little bit less robust than previous years, but it was still celebrated with some panache. Last night the sound of fire crackers and larger explosive fireworks was quite loud, but the clamor did not last for long. It started promptly at 9 pm and quieted down about a half hour later. For the next two hours it remained relatively quiet with only intermittent sounds of firecrackers. At 12 o’clock there were some last minute flashes and explosive sounds interrupting the midnight hour. I gather some late night party enthusiasts held off setting off all their fireworks until we had passed into July 5th.

Since the normal town firework displays had been cancelled by all the local town governments, the July 4th really was really quieter than past years. But the 5th of July was different. I cruised out into the harbor that day in my little FastCat and the harbor was loaded with small and large sailboats and small and large motorboats. Many of the larger craft had cruised over from Connecticut and were spending the weekend in beautiful Port Jefferson harbor.

The fact that there were many visitor craft and pretty much all the local residents who had boats were out and about in the harbor and the surrounding bays, made that day seem totally typical of a summer day in the Port Jefferson waterways. There were kayakers everywhere, standup paddlers galore, solo kayak fishermen, solo kayak fisher ladies, small motorboats, large motorboats, small sailboats, larger sailboats and what can only be described as a few really large yachts. On this day there were several yachts well over 100’ either docked in the harbor or motoring out of harbor or motoring into the harbor. These larger 100 foot plus yachts made the other sailboats and motorboats look like little toys. In fact, the opposite was true – the big yacht were toys of some really rich folks either living here or passing through.

This is my FastCat moored just off of Stone Beach 1. It is a prototype of a new Sea Eagle model I am planning to introduce this winter.

I took this day as an opportunity to cruise out with my son Joshua in my FastCat out through the Port Jefferson inlet into Long Island Sound. Once out of the inlet, we turned to the left towards New York City and headed a half a mile West to a beach I call Stone Beach 1. It is quite close to where the richest man on Long Island lives, although his house is actually behind Stone Beach 1, off of a scenic cove. I believe this gentleman does not bring his boat into Port Jefferson Harbor because there is no place to dock or moor it. It is difficult to find place in our 4 bays for a 222 foot long yacht. No matter, I am sure he keeps it at the ready in some not too distant port.

Stone Beach 1 is well named by me because it has billions of stones. If I could wait around for a few hundred thousand years or a few million years, maybe those stones would become beautiful white glistening sand, soft on the feet. But I do not have time for that transformation, so we anchor about 10 feet off the stone shoreline. 

I can get to this same beach by motoring to the cove on the inland side and walking across to the Sound side, but that’s would require shoes and a 100 foot trek across the rocks. Josh and I prefer to just motor out to the outside beach and slide into the water. This eliminates the need for rock resistant shoes. On the Sound side, our feet still touch the rocks, but if we stand in 3 or 4 feet of water the flotation coming from the salt water, makes walking around reasonably comfortable. I do not recommend walking across Stone Beach on land with bare feet. It is painful for me just to think about that. It hurts and without tough sandals or shoes it is a no go area as far as I am concerned.

Another benefit of motoring around to the Sound side in my FastCat is that it comes fully equipped with all our beach needs…the attached canopy protects us against vicious sunlight, the radio I carry on board plays rock music, and I always bring seltzer to quell our thirst. My FastCat has two swivel chairs which allows us to sit in the shade and oversee Stone Beach 1. Best of all, there is nothing to lug across the spit of rocks that divides Long Island Sound from the little cove on the other side.

This is my son Joshua in his Campesino hat enjoying the water with “Stone Beach 1” just behind him. I dare you to try and count the number of stones on the beach behind my son.

When my son goes swimming he always wears a hat since he is, like me, sensitive to the sun. Joshua, who is autistic, learned to swim at an early age and he still enjoys swimming now at 48 as much as ever. One has to watch him because he might at any moment to decide to swim out into the Sound a 100 feet or so, where it can be an easy 20 feet deep. At Stone Beach 1, the shoreline drops off fast…you only have to go out 15 or 20 feet to be in over your head.

On this day there is a Southwest breeze. That is the normal wind direction in summer and on the North Shore of Long Island, that is wonderful direction because it blows off any scum and jellyfish or mysterious material that I call either “Umgum” or “OogieBatanga”. Trust me it is better not to meet up with any of those elements. No worries though, on this day, all of that material is on its way to Connecticut and the water is blue and clear and truly refreshing. It is a pretty warm day with the temperature is in the mid 80s. The water temperature is in the high 60s, making it comfortable to swim in and truly refreshing.

I would like to mention what I think are two other great features of Stone Beach 1. It is just east of Oldfield Point, which is a point of land that juts out into Long Island Sound and appropriately has a scenic lighthouse overlooking the the point. The point of land seems to create added tidal currents which sweep by the beach and keep the water generally clean. The second feature is the fact that there is never anyone on this beach and if there is, generally they are at least a 100 feet away. So “social distancing” on this beach is not a problem.

I have not yet explained Stone Beach 2. Again, that is only the name I apply to it, but it too is a wonderful beach. Rather than being to the West of the inlet, it is to the East. So when I come out of the inlet, I turn right to go to Stone Beach 2 and head towards Montauk. That beach is on another point of land that juts out into Long Island Sound a half mile east of the inlet. On the other side Stone Beach 2, over a high dune, is Pirate’s Cove. That is quite a large cove that is to the left of Port Jefferson Harbor just as you come through the inlet.

The reason I go to Stone Beach 2 sometimes is if there is a Northeast wind it will actually push the dreaded “Ungum” and “OogieBatanga” onto Stone Beach 1. So that makes Stone Beach 2 my beach of choice if there is a Northeasterly breeze. That is not often, but sometimes it is the case. Now if there is a North or Northwest breeze, then the situation is hopeless because surely there will be a buildup of “Umgum” and “OogieBatanga” at both Stone Beach 1 & 2. And if it is later in the summer, that might also bring in the arrival of some really nasty jellyfish, which provide stings to remember.

July 11, 2020

Yesterday afternoon, we had an interesting experience. We were slammed with a tropical storm. It was not that severe, 30 to 40 miles per hour winds and a couple inches of rain, but it is very unusual to have a tropical storm in July. August and September and October are our typical times for tropical storms and sometimes hurricanes. So this was early in the season. It seems that this year, which began absurdly warm in the winter, changed to quite chilly in the spring, has decided to speed up and bring us tropical weather before its time.

On the Coronavirus front, today it was announced that we had the most cases ever so far for a single day. 68,000 new cases of the Coronavirus have been diagnosed. In addition, it seems that deaths are again rising. After going down to several hundred a day, deaths now have risen to 800 or 900 a day. Fortunately for me and my family, we are in a part of the country where the Coronavirus is now almost fully under control. New York State, which still has the highest number of overall cases, now over 400,000 cases, now has among lowest incidence of new cases – less than 800 cases each day. That’s a lot for most countries, but for America, it is almost Coronavirus Free.

That situation is not true of Florida, Texas, South Carolina, California and many other states which have recently opened up. They have experienced, contrary to Vice President Pence, very large surges of the Coronavirus in the last 7 days. So while most of the Northeast has tamed the Coronavirus, this spunky beast is showing up throughout the South and the Southwest and in California.

All of that can be truly said to be totally predictable. In fact, it was stated by numerous health officials and epidemic specialists that if we were not careful and prudent in opening up, new cases would pop up. And pop up they. In fact, it is quite clear that the Coronavirus is more out of control than ever before.

Speaking out of control, another 1.3 Americans filed for unemployment this last week. That makes almost 50,000,000 people filing for unemployment since the Coronavirus started to take hold of this country. Now, according to pundits, experts and stock market mavens, this was better than predicted. Apparently, there are only 18,000,000 plus people with continuing claims and while that is more than double the highest unemployment rate in the Great Recession of 2008, it still would indicate that 30,000,000 people have gone back to work. That sounds pretty impressive, but somehow that does not pencil out for me – something seems a little strange about it. Apparently, there are some people who were “furloughed” and not “laid off”. That means they theoretically will have jobs after their furloughs end. 

I am not convinced about that theory. A number of large companies have announced that they may have permanently “lay off” some the “furloughed” workers.

Those receiving unemployment claims or other aid from the government is now over 30,000,000. No worries though, stocks are UP, UP. UP!

But do not worry folks, the stock markets are probing new highs. Both the Nasdaq and the S&P are close to their all time highs and the S&P is up roughly 53% up from its March lows.

The wisdom of the markets have spoken: All is well.

Now as a skeptical older man, I would take issue with that. I would say the markets are ”berserk”, to use a technical term. And my conspiracy side tells me somebody is prospering from those “berserk” markets. I would even suppose, some scallawags are manipulating the markets. Heavens to Purgatroid…could that be true? 

July 18, 2020

The day is gray, but my heart is warm as I lolligag over the water

This day is not so beautiful, but the temperature is cool and almost refreshing. There is considerable humidity about. I would say both the temperature and the humidity was about 72. As I often do, I took the opportunity to go for a paddle. I did not get to far into it before my paddle descended into lolligagging. As I as have mentioned in other blog stories, lolligagging is when determination to paddle at a brisk pace evaporates and I become totally lackadaisical and too immersed in the moment. At that point, I am no longer concerned about getting a set amount of exercise.

My focus shifts to my surroundings and I paddle without direction or need of destination. The air feels cool in spite of the elevated humidity and I am enjoying meandering at a none too quick a pace out of Little Bay. Because there is a pretty brisk Southwest wind, I paddle across the bay to the leeward side. Once protected from wind by the trees on the south side of bay, I slow my paddle and look about. Great green trees surround the shore in front of me and hide many of the houses that are just beyond. Just in front of me, are several egrets and herons happily taking their pick of minnow in the reeds by the shore. This side of the bay no longer has waves or even ripples. I stop to lolligag and enjoy the moment.

The sky above looks like it might rain, but I know from studying the radar on my iPad that clouds holding rain have mostly passed so I drift aimlessly and contently. No big worries about rainfall should my iPad be wrong, I have my brought trusty waterproof kayak blanket which I can throw over legs on a second’s notice. For the upper body, I have brought an impervious and totally waterproof L.L. Bean waterproof jacket. If the occasion calls for a waterproof jacket, I am ready.

I paddle on in Setauket Bay towards the Southern end of that bay which terminates a narrow stream running into a tiny pond just in front 25A, the main drag from Setauket to Port Jefferson. Beyond the pond and the Phragmites, I hear the sound of cars passing by, going towards Port Jeff or back to Old Setauket. I paddle close to the small bridge that crosses over the small stream like waterway with the tiny pond just before the drain that runs under 25A. I note “the pond” is now fully clogged with sediment and Pampus Grass, aka Phragmites.

Someone forgot to tell the Phragmites that they were supposed to die. Someone also forgot to drain the little pond of mud and muck, which, as you can see, is still mud and muck.

Last year I remember George Hoffman, then and perhaps now, the leader of Setauket Harbor Task Force, confidently telling the Village Herald, our local paper, that the evil Phragmites would be destroyed by a new technique of cutting the Phragmites stalks in half. And in fact, later last year I remember paddling into the same waterways and seeing the Phragmites all cut cleanly in half. That technique would exterminate the evil reeds and then they would disappear. Alas, the Phragmites did not get the message. If you look at the picture above, you will see they are doing quite nicely, thank you. I wonder if cutting the stalks in half actually stimulated growth?

I also remember that George Hoffman said that the village had been given a million dollar grant and some company would shortly drain the swamp, so to speak. George went on to say that would help clean the bay of algae and pollutants. As you can see from the large mudflat in the middle of the “pond”, that part of the plan has not been carried forward. Perhaps, the money went to clean up someone else’s swamp.

I would like to mention that the Republican Governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, has been diagnosed with the Coronavirus. Kevin, a fervent Trump supporter and a fan of opening up Oklahoma early, attended the rally. So, he may be the first of many folks to get the virus from attending the rally. His office, by the way, says they do not think Kevin got the virus from attending the rally, but the fact remains he did attend the rally and he did get the virus.

July 30, 2020

On this day, Herman Cain, Trump supporter and pizza chain executive, died of the Coronavirus. He also attended the Trump Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Before his death, he was quoted as saying he did not know where he contracted the Coronavirus. Apparently, he liked the Tulsa Rally. “I was there! The atmosphere was exciting and inspiring!” he said in a tweet with a photograph showing himself without a mask with several other Trump fans, also without masks.

On this day, Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, said she would invoke emergency powers and postpone for one year the election that was to be held this September. The Chief Executive was quoted as saying, “This postponement is entirely based on public safety reasons, there were no political considerations.”

On this day, Donald Trump sent out a tweet suggesting that the November Presidential election might be postponed because he deemed that an election held on November 3rd, 2020, “will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

POTUS was concerned that mail-in votes would be subject to fraud.

We shall see what we shall see.

 

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Paddling in a Pandemic Gets Personal – Chapter 3

This is the view from my living room window. My favorite arm chair (aka, my office) is strategically located to be able to see the both weather and tide conditions. On this day in early May the tide is about half-in and the trees have yet to show their deciduous powers. My dock is just down the walkway on the water below. In front of my dock is my little cove which I call Turtle Cove because around this time of year turtles show up and stick their heads out of the water.

By Cecil Hoge

I was not to know until the middle of the month how the Pandemic would become personal. It seems that microbes do not discriminate.

May 1, 2020

The first day of May in old Setauket began cold and cloudy. A gray morning on a gray bay. The wind was 15 mph. The temperature was in the 50s. It did not look inviting. Around 11am I looked out and saw the weather was grimmer. Now it was raining. I paid it no mind and went back to my work. For the last 5 weeks I have been working remotely. It is a little hard to get used to my new routine. I get up, have breakfast, move from the kitchen table about 40 feet to my living room chair which overlooks my bay. Almost immediately I flip open my Chromebook and check orders and e-mails. To augment my digital stance, I have my iPad Pro and a Samsung phone at the ready.

I cruise through the e-mails to see if there is something that needs answering. Mostly there are e-mails from suppliers or employees. I have a ton of unsolicited e-mails each day. It seems no matter how often I hit the unsubscribe button, I get more unsolicited e-mails. It is true that sometimes the unsubscribe button works and e-mails stop coming from a particular company, but, like Hydra, that Greek monster with many heads, the more unsubscribes I hit, the more unsolicited e-mails appear. And so it goes.

Answering e-mails can take anywhere for 10 minutes to several hours, depending on who I am responding to. When responding to suppliers, often an e-mail can take an hour or more. That is because I want to make my e-mails clear and simple, but I do not want to leave any details out. And so it goes.

After e-mails, I move on to cell phone calls, conference calls and Skype calls, often at the same time. Discussions can go on for minutes or hours, but usually they are lightened by some discussion of local weather conditions, promotional opportunities, the past weekend activities, sales of our products, sales of products in general and the unusually weird situation that the Coronavirus presents everyone I talk to.

A lot of my time is spent in reviewing sales trends and figuring out what we are running out of and what we need to order. These days that has been harder because sales are crazy good and we are running out of many models. The situation is more difficult in our boat business, but we are facing the same essential problem in our lure business. I know in this trying time of the Coronavirus, when many businesses are facing a collapse in sales, it is particularly weird to discuss problems created by too many orders coming too fast. But that is our strange situation.

After reviewing e-mails, then there are conversations with customers: that can cover a multitude of subjects, such as new products to take on, inventory levels of certain lures, boats, SUPs or kayaks, problems with an individual product or customer problems with other customers. It all takes some sorting out.

Anyway, after plowing through some of the above for about two hours, I looked out my window and noticed that the clouds above no longer contained rain. Hmmmh, I thought, there may be an opportunity here. I scrutinized the level of the tide and was happy to see that it was still coming in, meaning there was plenty of water for a paddle or a row.

I suit up in my standard gear for a row on chilly day…windproof fleece-lined jacket, a warm plaid shirt, warm gloves, fleece-lined pants, slip on moccasin shoes for slipping into the foot straps for the sliding rigger arm and, if they occasion calls for it, wool socks. Fortunately, it is chilly, but not cold enough to require wool socks. And so, within a few minutes I am down on my dock sliding my rowing craft into the water.

Out on the bay there is a brisk, chilly 10-15 mph wind coming from the prevailing wind direction at this time of year…the Northwest. I do not like the Northwest wind because my bay is angled North to South and it does not afford much protection from the wind. This is not a stability issue, it is a comfort issue. I do not like rowing or paddling where a cold wind can hit you directly.

No matter, I come out of my little cove, turn left and row with the wind toward Setauket Bay. That is easy. Returning will not be so easy since I will have to row directly into the wind. That will be harder, but 10-15 mph is quite do-able. It becomes more of a struggle if the wind gets above 20 or 25 mph. On this day I know that is not likely. The wind normally picks up in the morning, around 8 or 9 and becomes stiffer thereafter. In early afternoon the wind tends to die down or at least not get stronger. Since it is now past 12, the wind is more likely to lay down than buffer up. I row with the wind easily and quickly to Setauket Bay and then take another left around the remnants of stone embankment that once were part of a bridge. Now I am in the lee of land protected from the wind by the Strong’s Neck peninsula. This makes the rowing pleasurable and sheltered as I head around Strong’s Neck and out toward Port Jefferson. It’s generally a 30 minute paddle or row from my house to the mouth Port Jefferson Bay.

Approaching the mouth of Port Jefferson Bay, it is a gray day on a gray bay. “Social Distancing” is, as usual, is no problem. No boats, no people.

As I approach Port Jefferson Bay, the day is still gray, chilly and raw. For this day’s journey I have brought along my trusty blue cooler bag with two bottles of Poland Spring sparkling water. That is my afternoon beverage. In the morning it would be a Yeti cup of hot coffee, but in the afternoon I want water with bubbles. When I get to the mouth of Port Jefferson Bay, I am thirsty, even though the temp is still chilly 54 degrees Fahrenheit and the day still cloudy. Despite that I feel warmed from row and ready for water with bubbles.

As I sip my seltzer, it occurs to me that this is a truly beautiful day. I feel exercised by my row, refreshed with clean chilly air, warmed throughout my body and just good.

The second two days of May were like the first day should have been. They were beautiful, sunny in the way you would expect a beautiful sunny day in May to be, with the sky blue and the sun bringing the new warmth of spring. Those two days were warmer with the high 60s and low 70s. The view from my house looked like the picture at the beginning of this blog story, although now, if looked closely, there were green shoots and young leaves and flowers beginning to show themselves. Being the first really decently warm day of spring, I took my son Joshua on my TriTiki. That is the solar boat that has 2 solar panels and 2 electric motors – I believe in back-up. A family friend came over for the occasion. My son is autistic so his view of the world may be different than yours or mine. That said, he truly enjoys cruising around in what I call the Mighty TriTiki. Below is a picture of this craft from last summer.

Here is the Mighty TriTiki – it is a prototype that I have been testing since last summer.

This spring I have changed some things on the Mighty TriTiki. I changed out the fabric canopy (shown above) for drop stitch inflatable canopy. Drop stitch refers to the type of construction used for the canopy cover – it is the same as we use for drop stitch inflatable paddleboards. That type of construction allows for making a flat rectangular canopy that is very rigid and inflated at a high pressure. The drop stitch canopy was another weird concept of mine that I have been testing for about 2 years. Originally, I used this drop stitch canopy on a prototype transom boat I was testing.

A drop stitch canopy is a very expensive solution to our traditional canopy for an inflatable boat. It is far more expensive than a fabric canopy, but it does have some distinct advantages. It is rock rigid and it covers a larger area and gives 100% UV protection – no ray of sunlight is going to get through that baby. As an older man with many, many years of outdoor & UV exposure, I need all the protection I can get. And it has another interesting characteristic. Because it is flat and very rigid, wind does not affect it nearly as much as our traditional fabric canopy. So, while cruising, the drop stitch canopy barely moves even when there is a very brisk wind of 15 or 20 mph.

Another benefit of this type on canopy is that the rigid and flat Canopy provides an ideal space to attach my solar panels. To make the solar panels secure and neatly attached I used some small Scotty mounting pads to bolt the solar panels directly to the drop stitch top. Below is a picture of this new setup. As far as I am concerned, it is the cat’s meow!

This is the Mighty TriTiki with a drop stitch inflatable canopy with 2 solar panels

Off the three of us went in the newly rigged Mighty TriTiki – Josh, Chuck and me – off into the wild blue yonder, quietly cruising out onto Little Bay – enjoying one of the first truly nice days of this new spring. Now the Mighty TriTiki has a max speed of 5 mph, so kneeboarding is not on the agenda. That said, it is wonderfully quiet craft as it plows it’s way through water. The fact there is no charging of the batteries necessary, makes cruising around a dream come true. We motor out to the mouth of Port Jefferson Bay, drop a line in water. No luck, the season is still early for fishing. Nevertheless, the sun and early spring warmth made it another day in paradise.

May 8, 2020

The stock markets have had a good week, in spite of Coronavirus cases and deaths increasing, in spite of another 3,000,000 people filing unemployment claims this week, in spite of numerous bankruptcies being announced or predicted. The markets seem to be under the impression that the V-shaped recover is around corner, that America is re-opening and soon America will be humming again. 

If you ask me, I think that is a very large pile of Buffalo chips.

In Coronavirus land, the news was simple. The microbes kept coming. It seemed that they had not heard from our President that any day now, the Coronavirus would give up the ghost and silently disappear. Instead, cases in the U.S. passed a million, cruised up to 1.2 million, deaths passed 60,000 and kept increasing one or two thousand a day. New corrected projections for the Coronavirus were now predicting up to 147,000 deaths by August. 

May 12, 2020

This day began with beautiful, clear and very windy weather. In spite of the wind I went rowing Tuesday. The wind was a brisk 20 mph, but no match for my trusty GoSkiff rowing craft. I went out and took in the puffy white cumulus clouds and the swans and the great white herons and the Canada geese. As usual, I saw no one on the water other than indigenous birds and the surrounding land and sea scapes

The next day was also beautiful, chilly and windy. This day the sky was without clouds. I went for a paddle. Out on the water where Setauket Bay leads into Port Jefferson Harbor my cell started ringing and bleeping with cell phone and skype calls. I was not bothered by this as I looked at the wide expanse of water in front of me. I answered the calls as quickly as I could. In between, I took sips of my coffee. Out there, answering the day to day needs of my business seemed easy.

The water on this morning was a flat glass surface with barely a whisper of wind.

May 14th/Day 1 – 2020

This was to be the day the Pandemic would come closer and become more personal. I did not know that when I went out for a paddle. It was another beautiful day, but unlike the first couple of days, it was not chilly and there was almost no wind. The weather was almost balmy with the temperature creeping up towards 70. As I was paddling from my bay to Setauket Bay and came into Port Jefferson, I could notice some changes.

The water was not as clear as it had been in the last few weeks. In my bay, the water had a layer of brown scum of what looked like brown soap sud bubbles. That was common in summer months. On days where there was little wind, the water would look murky, sudsy and polluted. Passing through the bay I noticed that algae was making its appearance in the bay again, but unlike the previous summer, instead flat pods of algae, 4 to 6 feet in circumference, algae was growing up in thick strings upwards from the bottom sometimes 6 to 12 inches in diameter. This was different from the algae of the past several years. It looked like it had mutated into another form, now attached to the bottom and streaming upwards like Jack and Beanstalk from the bottom of the bay to the surface, although in this case, they were algae stalks.

Now you would think paddling on flat water with no wind is easier than paddling on wind-swept water, but that is not always true. Sometimes, the water in my bays seem to have a kind of suction to them and paddling seems harder. Other times, on flat water, the resistance is less and paddling seems easier. I am not sure why this is the case. I think it might have to do with the incoming or outgoing tide. On windy or breezy days, paddling can seem a lot easier when I am rowing or paddling. I think the reason for that is that the waves actually raise up my kayak or rowing craft and they scoot over the water faster and with less effort.

No matter, on this day, the suction of the water seemed greater on the flat water. It was still a quick and easy paddle from my house to the mouth of Port Jefferson Harbor/Bay. I noticed other differences on this day. There was more sound of cars running around my Little Bay as I paddled. Coming into Setauket Bay I was accosted buy the smell of fried eggs and sausage and bacon. That was because the smells were drifting over from SE Port Deli which is situated off of a small cove leading into the little village of Setauket. The Deli is located on 25A, a major thoroughfare, and the road I take to get to my office. And because the Deli serves take-out food they are still fully operational. The Deli and 25A is only about a half mile from where I was paddling and I could hear even more cars surging up and down that main road. It seemed the warmer weather had woken up the village and its people and now they were getting out. And of course with that came what looked like dirtier water and greater algae.

I can tell you that the water of our bays is like a Chameleon – it changes appearance on a regular and ongoing basis. So, if there is no wind, the water does tend to look dirtier and more or less polluted. However, if the wind picks up, miraculously whatever is floating on the surface is blown away and instantly it looks like a new and pristine waterway, with bluer water and little waves rippling across its surface and reflecting light from the sun as you look over it. The same body of water can change appearance in a matter of 3 minutes if a burst of wind sweeps over the bay and change the look of all that is before you.

Back to the situation confronting our country, the Pandemic and the microbes causing it have continued to prevail in spite of our President’s words to the contrary…with overall cases in the country passing 1,300,000 and deaths passing 80,000. It would seem that no one sent a memo to the microbes that they should stop their quest to invade the human race, so on they went ahead undeterred. 

On this day, a Thursday, when I get back the new job statistics are announced. Almost three million more Americans have filed for unemployment. That means over 36,000,000 people have filed for unemployment in the last 6 weeks. These are numbers that echo The Great Depression. The Stock Markets take the news in stride and in a perverse sense of mirth, choose to go up that day. It seems Happy Days are here again.

Back at the house, my wife gets a surprise call from a Nurse Practitioner. It seems my wife has tested positive for Covid 19. Yes, this Pandemic has instantly become more personal. It seems it has arrived at my very home. You might ask why my wife was tested for the Coronavirus. It was not because she was experiencing symptoms. No, she had gone to get a general checkup and as part of that the doctor recommended a test for the Coronavirus. So, that was how it came about the she tested positive.

Fortunately, none of us, not my wife, not my son, not myself, yet exhibited symptoms of the Coronavirus. Nor is there, apparently, anyway to learn if a positive test indicated a recent or latent or a long-existing infection. So now we all must submit ourselves to a 14 day quarantine and see what happens.

Learning that there is a positive Coronavirus test in your household causes all sorts of thoughts to go through your mind. I am sure that burden was greater on my wife than on me. In the case of my son, given the fact that he is autistic and non-verbal, it is not easy to know what thoughts he may have had. Certainly, he understood something was going on. Why else would my wife and myself be wearing those strange and ridiculous masks?

One of the things that happens when someone find out that they have tested positive for the Coronavirus is that they become suspicious that every possible feeling they have might be a possible symptom of the disease. I suppose if you had real symptoms this might not be the case, but in our case, none of us had any symptoms. The lack of symptoms should be a relief, but according to reports, the nature of this disease is the symptoms take 5 to 8 days to actually appear and in some cases, the symptoms are mild or non-existent.

Our worries about this were not helped when an official New York State health worker called up to see how my wife and everyone in the house were doing. My wife told the healthcare worker that none of us had any symptoms. Not to worry, said the healthcare worker, no doubt everyone in the house was infected and soon symptoms would appear. Our best hope was that we were asymptomatic or the symptoms would be mild. That was an unpleasant jolt.

This was not very helpful from our point of view. All of us were in a category where there was danger of the disease being serious. My son was taking various seizure medications and being autistic was therefore at risk. My wife, far younger than me, had some other ailments that made her at risk. And I, at 77, was also at risk of having serious complications from the disease.

This no doubt made both my wife and I concerned and soon we were analyzing every ache, every sneeze, every sniffle as the onset of the disease. My wife, a long term believer in doctors, was quite convinced that she truly had it and she was particularly concerned that we also had it. I, always a believer in Murphy’s Law, that is whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, felt it was quite possible that my wife’s test was a false positive or that she was asymptomatic. I also thought that the fact that none of us seemed to have any symptoms was a good sign. My son, being autistic, was not so concerned. And in truth, his attitude would have been the better attitude for my wife and I to maintain.

In any case, because the healthcare worker had said that we probably all had Covid, my son and I got tested a few days later for the disease and for Coronavirus antibodies. In the meantime, my wife went through a lot of heartache and fear and conviction of possibly having the disease and possibly passing on the disease to us.

In the first test Josh and I took, they stick a swab on thin plastic stick well up your nose. The sensation is not pleasant, but thankfully, it takes just seconds. The antibody test requires blood. I have to say we were able to get into this medical facility, CityMD was its name, and get out in a little over 30 minutes. The folks that that did the testing said results would come back in 3 to 5 days. So, for about 6 days my wife was convinced from various symptoms that the disease was about to start. And I have to confess, I also thought various minor aches or sneezes might mean the end was nigh.

During this period we washed our hands like crazy, wore masks and tried to observe social distancing in a house that was not designed for social distancing. It was not easy and it seemed strange. It was also not easy to maintain social distancing when helping your son brush his teeth, take a shower or get dressed.

May 18th, Day 5, 2020 

The day begins with a shroud of clouds. We still have no symptoms that indicate the Coronavirus is beginning its progression into a serious disease. That, of course, does not stop us from thinking it might be starting. In the morning, as some of the dreary clouds seem to whiten, I go for a row and immediately feel better. I have sense we are getting through this strange and unsettling period. No real symptoms in five days…maybe, this whole thing is about to fly byby.

May 21, Day 7, 2020

The day begins like so many this month…cloudy, chilly and generally gray…even the new leaves on the trees seem to have a gray hue to them. But, as often happens to weather that starts grimly in the morning, it improved and I quickly decide to take advantage.

The tide is hardly in, so I have to wait for the water to arrive in my cove – I need at least 6” of water to clear the skeg on my rowing craft or kayak. And so I bide my time by doing some work on a new prototype boat I am testing – The FastCat – see the picture below. I shim the motor a little more, raising the transom to 8 & 3/4” from the floor. That is only a 1/4” higher from the 8 & 1/2” I just had the motor, but I know that small adjustments can have big effects. Since the tide is too low for motoring out on my cove, I will have to wait to test this theoretical change.

This is a prototype of a new boat I am working on – tentatively called the FastCat 12. And fast it is, here I going 18 mph with a 9.9 hp Honda. The quarter inch shim to the motor proved best for motoring.

The day turns beautiful and the tide rises to the needed 6” level. So I finish my transom adjustment on the FastCat and launch my RazorLite kayak which conveniently rests 4 feet away on the dock.

Soon, I am paddling my kayak out of my cove. As I paddle quietly out, I see the heads of small turtles sticking out of the water. As I come close (5′ to 10’ away) each turtle withdraws their head from above the surface and makes underwater waves as they paddle away from me. It is a sight I am used to. I paddle on as the sun shines down. The wind and temperature are still chilly, a brisk 15 mph from the West. I cross my little bay and hug the South shore to be in the lee of the land.

I stay on the South side as I paddle into Setauket Bay and to the end of that bay which puts me within 200 feet of Setauket Village, 25A and my very aromatic deli. Should I wish, I could pull to shore and run into the SEPort Deli and get myself a 2 egg, sausage and cheese sandwich – my favorite – with my mask on, of course.

But today, I will resist the smell of eggs and bacon and sausage emanating from the Deli, a siren call though it is, and turn around and head home, keeping to the South side of shore to avoid the brisk West wind. A strange thing happens at this time of year. As the weather approaches summer, I get suddenly desirous of warmer weather. In the winter, I can be happy paddling in 30 to 40 degree weather, but as summer approaches, I hanker for more warmth. One thing is sure, on this day I am not going to get it. The temp is a nippy 54. Fortunately, I have my trusty kayak blanket, so my legs are toasty and dry. Soon, as I hug the shore, I wend my way out of Setauket Bay into Little Bay and around to my Turtle Cove.

May 24, 2020 – Day 10 

Josh and myself have tested negative for both the virus and the antibodies to the virus. So the all clear has been called for us. All that remains is for my wife to also test negative for the Coronavirus. We have to wait a few more days for that. Then we can fully put the fear of that disease behind us – at least for the present. My wife is scheduled to get another test this coming week so hopefully, that will be soon. Fearing you may have a disease can be  almost as bad as having a disease.

Memorial Day Weekend on Long Island begins with clouds and chill. It seems the Coronavirus has temporarily reversed the course of Global Warming. According to a recent report on Bloomberg News, the world has seen 17% less greenhouses gases in the last two months. Hmmmh, that probably explain the chilliness of the last two months. It would be nice to have warm and beautiful skies, clean air, a good economy and world peace, but, I suppose, you cannot have it all, in spite of the promises of certain magazines.

I sense the people of Long Island want to get out and go, hit the beach, hit the bars and the restaurants, hit the shopping malls, but those hopes are ahead of our possibilities and neither the weather or the Governor of New York are fully co-operating. The weather pays us no heed and does what she does and so today is still partly cloudy, still chilly, still somewhat raw, with a cold wind coming out of the Northeast. It is more like early April than late May. The good governor of the state is playing his cards slowly and cautiously, not wanting to send us all out to celebrate when celebrations may fade to funerals. And no doubt he is right in that prudent approach. I feel in the long run, we will be better for it.

Despite the weather I get in a row and somewhat later a cruise with Josh in the TriTiki. My son is not so sensitive to the warmth or lack thereof. He enjoys the open horizons of water as well he should. Chuck, our family friend, comes along. The Gov has given some leeway with our leashes. Now we can gather in groups up to 10, as long as appropriate masks are worn. America is tired of this regime, as is understandable, but cautious we are. I leave the young to go out and bravely achieve herd immunity while later deleting a few participants.

The day gets better as the evening approaches with somewhat warmer temps, less wind and chill, but still more cool than warm.  That evening, after going to bed rather early, I wake up around midnight and decide to go for an evening paddle. This is something I do quite often in warmer times of the year. I like the dark silence and stillness of the night. It is still easy to find my way. I have solar dock lights that supply the minimum light needed to recognize my paddle craft. At night I always choose my RazorLite kayak. Why? Because I can see what in front of me when I paddle. With my rowing craft it is not so easy to recognize things in a mirror on a dark night as you skim over the water backward.

This Saturday evening is a dark night without the light of a moon and without wind. The clouds from earlier in the day have returned and look somewhat ominous on the horizon. I sense a thunderstorm is possible, but not immediately. On the bay it is easy at night to make your way. Almost all of the surrounding houses have outside lights creating a light-lit perimeter which makes it easy to know where the land is. And since these bays are familiar and so long paddled by me, I can almost paddle with my eyes closed. I do not because I always want to keep a sharp outlook for killer sharks.

This evening I see none. There is some occasional movement on the surface of the almost glassy water, indicating something swimming below…more likely a small turtle or a young “schoolie” striped bass…early arrivals telling us the bay is waking up for the season.

Sharks are actually rare in our waters, as you may have guessed. I have seen schools of baby sharks one or two feet long, swimming in Setauket Bay, so it is true that sharks do occasionally come. The baby sharks make a strange and unsettling sight, with their little fins sticking just above the surface of the water as they swim around circles. In truth, I only saw baby sharks in our bays once. Nevertheless, it was an unsettling and somewhat startling sight.

I did strike up a conversation once with a local clam digger, who claimed to have seen a 14′ shark just under his boat in Setauket Bay. I took him at his word although I might have wondered if he had been drinking. For my part, I have never seen large sharks in our bays or in the nearby Sound.

On this almost warm and humid night, I hear voices on the left and right as I come out my little cove. They are young voices and they seem cheerful, perhaps encouraged by some liquid libations. I first paddle to right to hear what they may be saying, but decide to turn around after I establish it is indeed young male and female voices apparently gathering around an outside fire that seems to be burning in great clay fire pot. From the giggles and laughter and the tinkling of glasses, I gather it is a festive party, with people happy to sit around a fire in the outside air and sip beverages. 

Summer has begun.

I paddle to the left through the darkness – the clouds hang low in the sky on this dark evening. Strangely, on nights when there is no moon, often there is more light in the bay. That is because the lights seem to ricochet back from the clouds above. And so it is this evening as I paddle towards the next group of young party enthusiasts. That seems to be a simple group of 4 sitting across from each with a picnic table between. I do not have tape measure with me and I am guessing the four young folks would not like me checking, but it looks to me that they are observing “social distancing “ in the best possible way.  I can say from hearing the young cheerful voices coming from young folks sitting out on a deck overlooking the bay on this warm, moonless evening, that some semblance of normalcy has returned. It seems the summer is getting underway.

May 25, 2020

On this day the death of a black man, George Floyd, is reported in the news and a video surfaces showing a police officer holding his knee on the man’s neck. The timeline of the video clearly shows that the officer pressed his knee on the black man’s neck for almost 9 minutes. The video shows the black man crying out “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” while the white police officer continued to press his knee down. And so, George Floyd died of lack of air. 

This report of course was picked up by all the “mainstream” media, the left wing media and the right wing media and shortly thereafter the protests began and continued in the next days. And as people gathered for these protests, many were close together and many were not wearing masks. Health officials warned this could bring  a new outbreak of Coronavirus cases. That did not seem to stop the protesters.

Some of the protests turned violent and looting soon erupted. And that was met, in some cases, with rubber bullets, tear gas, fire crackers and wide scale damage to small and large businesses. These protests quickly spread from city to city across the U.S. because the anger and bitterness was deep about the killing of George Floyd.

Within days, protesters were arrested and police officers had rocks and fire crackers thrown at them. The right said it was the doings of Antifa – an anti-fascist group. The left said it was right wing hate groups that were instigating the violence. The President tweeted things like “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” and other things about dominating the protesters and “Thugs” and snarling dogs and fences and how law and order would be maintained. None of that had much effect on the protests. In fact, it seemed to increase the protests. Whoever was doing the doing, the doing was spreading and growing.

At one point, when protesters starting gathering in front of the White House, the President said he was calling out the military. There was a much discussed incident where the President had some streets cleared by military folks and he went over a Catholic Church and posed with a bible in his hand. The picture did not make it very clear why the President was holding the Bible in his hand. If you ask me, it looked like someone photo-shopped the Bible in and could not get the angle of the Bible quite right. The Bible seemed a little uncomfortable in that hand.

I have to say a few days later a number of military men came out and said that they did not think using military troops to quell what were largely peaceful protests appropriate. A few days later the President backed away from mentioning that he would use troops to eradicate the violence that might occur.

With 40,000,000 people now unemployed there were a lot of people who might want to protest things even if they were not specifically about the death of George Floyd. One could say the atmosphere in Age of Coronavirus was toxic and there was bad blood on many sides. Health experts became alarmed at the gathering large crowds, especially those with people not wearing masks. This could become a new source of Coronavirus, the health experts warned. So, gathering to protest might now also cause a spike in Coronavirus cases.

But the people came out anyway…angry, disgusted, feeling the killing of black man by the police would never stop. A few weeks before George Floyd’s death there were other reported cases of black people being killed, but they did not spark widespread protests. But the video of George Floyd did. It was not the first time that a black died crying the words, “I can’t breathe”. But the video made clear that pressing a knee on a man’s neck for almost 9 minutes could indeed result in the death of that person.

This nation began its history with the importation of black slaves to farm white plantations. Since then, the nation had been trying to deal with the consequences of bringing millions of black slaves to America. We have suffered this problem through the Civil War, two World Wars and recurring racial unrest. The consequences have been with us, in one way or another, since the first slave set foot on the soil of America.

One difference now was the fact that we were both in a racial crisis and health crisis.

May 28, 2020

My wife goes for her new Coronavirus test. Of course, now she must wait await results which she is told can take 3 to 5 days.

May 31, 2020 – Day 17 

This has been a gloriously beautiful day. Mother Nature is apparently unaware of the death of George Floyd or the Pandemic that continues to make its way around the world. I started the day with a ride in the mighty TriTiki with Josh and myself. The wind was brisk 15 mph from the Northwest. There were little whitecaps on the water when we pulled out on the bay. The air is chilly, but incredibly fresh. Yes, there are some good aspects to this Pandemic. The air is temporarily cleaner. There is no feeling of a heavy haze heating the air and loading up the humidity. Not this day.

This air is sparkling clean and fresh reminding me of a famous ad headline. “Down from Canada, comes news of a new sparkling beverage”. But on this day it is not GingerAle arriving from Canada for first time in the stores of America. No, this time, it is the air itself that is clean and fresh and down from Canada.

June 2, 2020

My wife gets her tests results. This time they are negative for Covid. So, for the time being, we can think that Coronavirus is not present in our house. This, of course, is a big relief. 

The stock markets in early June were good for most everyone holding securities. In the first week of June the markets almost almost get back to pre-Pandemic highs. The Nasdaq, in fact, achieves new all time highs, settling in above 10,000.

The markets ignore the protests stemming from the George Floyd murder, they ignore the fact that the Coronavirus continues unabated, leveling off in some states but increasing in others. They ignore the fact that the Coronavirus is raging in other parts of the world and that worldwide the Pandemic is still growing. They ignore the fact that the protests for George Floyd have now spread to England and Europe. Apparently, England and Europe have their own racial problems and the George Floyd murder has struck a cord for millions of people there.

There is much talk about this event, the murder of George Floyd, bringing real change. Many newspapers and networks talk about how this time it is different…this time change will come. I am not so optimistic, but one can hope.

June 14, 2020

We have enjoyed one of the most beautiful weekends Long Island has ever seen. The temperature has been in the low 70s. I would call it a Perfect Port Jefferson Day. I, of course, take this opportunity to both paddle and go boating. The wind is out of the Northwest. The sky is a beautiful deep blue with few clouds. Those clouds that do pass by are beautiful and puffy and Cumulus – they hang in the air like elongated white clumps of cotton. The wind scours the surface of the water and keeps clumps of algae and pollution out of sight and out of mind. The air is fresh and soft and clean and brisk and invigorating…a true treasure to breathe in.

The stock markets have not had the same luck as the weather. They take a 5% breather. Apparently, the reports of continued and rising Coronavirus cases in some states that opened up early and the continued protests all around the country over the George Floyd murder have had a depressing effect on the markets.

Here is a view from my TriTiki of a pretty large gathering of algae. I would guess the pod in the distance measures 75’ x 25’. That is really large when compared the the pods we had last summer which were never more than 15’ x 5’. Yes, algae is ever-changing and on the move. As Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, said many centuries ago, “change is the only constant”.

I can say that I do see some signs of problems in our bays cropping up. Algae, which has been gaining a increasing foothold in bays for the last 10 years, is back with a vengeance. Once again, it seems to have evolved and mutated. Now the strings of algae that I saw a few weeks ago have evolved and bloomed out into pods and they are gathering in my Little Bay in ever larger clumps. Above you see what that looks like.

I wonder whether the Coronavirus will mutate like the algae in my bay?

But when I go boating this beautiful weekend, everything seems almost normal. There are kayakers and Stand Up Paddlers all over, motorboats and sailboats of many sizes. I would say Setauket Harbor, which is where most local boats moor during the summer, is almost full. I sense there are some missing smaller boats, perhaps owned by bartenders, flight attendants and waiters not yet back to work. That said, there is almost a full accounting of larger sailboats, a Mastercrafts and speedboats with 3 or 4 outboards motors. Out in Port Jefferson Harbor, a large contingent of Connecticut boats have arrived to drop anchor and sip libations. Many large boats are grouped and tied together. I am guessing that “social distancing” may be somewhat forgotten.

As I am coming out into Port Jefferson Bay, I notice Long Island’s richest man motoring by me heading into Setauket Harbor. He is standing at the helm of what looks to be a very modest 19’ Boston Whaler. He looks quite healthy for man in his 80s. With him are some young and old folks and I gather he is pointing out to his guests the scenic areas of our bays as he heads into Setauket Harbor. Now this gentleman has a much larger craft called the Archimedes. I can understand why he is not using that on this day. The boat is 222 feet long and it would have a hard time navigating between the Lilliputian sail and motor boats dotting the bay.

This gentleman, like me, lives on a nearby cove and it would be hard to moor his bigger boat there since his boat is actually larger than the cove his house is by. So, motoring a smaller craft is definitely the better choice if you want to show some guests the wonders of the waterways you live by.

And so I end this chapter of this blog story on a wondrous and weird Port Jefferson Day.

Spring has Sprung, Summer has begun. If you compare this picture with the picture at the start of this blog, you will notice that deciduous trees really do change season to season.

 

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Paddling in a Pandemic – Chapter 2

 

The cloud bank is sliding off to the East as I row past the stone embankment that once was a bridge. Row, row, row your boat gently on the bay, Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, living day by day.


By Cecil Hoge

April 14, 2020

I have this recurring feeling that I am living in a dream. The only problem is that it is real. It is not some dream that I will awake from after a few minutes of fitful sleep. It is as if I found myself in a Haruki Murakami novel and we are all in some mysterious alternate world. I expect to look up one evening and see two moons in the night sky.

As I begin this blog story, there are now over a half million cases of the Coronavirus in this country with over 20,000 deaths. America now has the most infections and the most deaths from the Coronavirus In the world. That is not how I would like to see America First, but at this moment, America is First.

The effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic are widespread…schools, colleges shut down, restaurants, bars shut down, stadiums, theaters shut down, bowling alleys, offices shut down, gyms, beauty parlors shut down…almost 17,000,000 people laid off as of last week, hospitals brimming with Coronavirus cases, doctors and nurses working 24/7, sometimes without needed protective equipment, millions tested, yet millions more untested. Congress and the Trump Administration have enacted bills to aid laid off workers and small businesses, but there are doubts as to how fast the monies will come.

It is a confusing and strange time, but Mother Nature seems to be unaware of our human plights on this chilly and invigorating April day. Swans glide elegantly and slide silently across my bay, seagulls are circling in the partially blue sky, herons stand on stilt legs in shallow waters silently picking off unsuspecting young minnows. The tide comes in, the tide goes out. On this morning the sky is clearing as a cloud bank slides off to the East. The tide is receding, but there is still a good two hours of rowable water.

I have not explained the tide that comes to my dock twice a day. We have what used to be a 7 to 9 foot tide. Now it is more. The tide used to be in for about 8 hours and out for about 4 hours. Now it it is generally in for 8 and a half hours and out for 3 and a half hours. It varies with the time of year and the closeness of the moon, but generally, I have been blessed with more time to row or paddle each day. My wife does not see this blessing the same way I do. She is terrified that the tide will come into our house. I have a backup plan for that but my wife is skeptical that my preparations will work.

No matter. What is sure is that the tidal waters that come to my back yard are there for longer periods than in the past and this extends my paddling or rowing choices. I have to explain when the tide is out, it is really out. My whole bay, Little Bay, empties and becomes a giant mudflat. That makes rowing or paddling at low tide impractical. Another fine point I have to make about the tide is that it comes in at a different time everyday. Generally, the tide advances about an hour each day, but that can change according to the time of year, the height of the moon and whether we happen to have a strong storm coming on. In a strong storm…a NorthEaster or a Hurricane…sometimes the tide does not go out while the storm is going on. And sometimes the tide comes up on my front lawn and that makes my wife very nervous. 

So much for the peculiarities of tidal waterways!

This last weekend was Easter Sunday and my wife, my son and I had a quiet turkey dinner. It began well on Long Island with a clear blue, cloudless sky. The temperature started the morning in the high 30s and then mosied up to the 40s and 50s. A hazy sky moved in on the day of Christ’s resurrection. Many wished to go to church, but the Coronavirus shut down those dreams. There would be no Easter Sunday services in churches, except, perhaps, in a few states where the pastors felt that spiritual healing was more important than the physical chance of catching a new disease. 

Today it is a Tuesday, two days after Easter Sunday and, as I head out for my row, the weather is warmer and spring is bursting forth everywhere. Flowers are popping up all along the road that rings my bay. Green shoots on bushes and trees that soon will become green leaves are beginning to show all around my bay. New colors for a new season are appearing…yellow Forsythia, purple Violets, pink Crocuses, white Narcissuses, purple Hyacinths…white and purple, pink and yellow and every color and hue in between are showing up around Little Bay and Setauket Bay. Willow trees, always the first to show leaves, are fluttering in the distance now with yellow green leaves that soon will become full green leaves.

The signs of the new season are everywhere and it seems that the outside world is unaware of the fears of the inside world.

And on this day, there is a notable absence of familiar sounds…no planes roaring overhead, not many cars whizzing around the road that circles my little bay, no sounds of construction or new housing, no sounds of helicopters overhead. I know all that will come back in time, but for the moment I can enjoy the absence of man-made clatter.

Almost as soon as I start rowing, the sky clears and the temperature rises. I row out of Little Bay, through Setauket Bay to the mouth of Port Jefferson Bay…that is about 2 miles from my dock. There I choose to pause with my morning row half complete. You may say I am stopping to smell the roses, but actually I am stopping to take a few pulls on my Yeti cup. The coffee inside is still hot and steaming even though I have rowed two miles and the air is chilly. A wide expanse of water greets my eyes.

Not many folks out on the water today!

On this morning I have not seen another human even moving. No boats, no paddlers, no rowers…it is only me and the seagulls. They cry as they circle above in the sky, perhaps, disturbed by my presence, more likely informing other seagulls of the presence or absence of minnows. When the minnows are running, it is feeding frenzy time. Too soon for that, this season is still young and the minnows so far are not making their presence known. Lucky for them.

When the stock market opens later that day it is in an ebullient mood. Why, I do not know. The day before the stock markets went down, but today is a new day. There is news that the Coronavirus may be near the peak. Maybe, we can consider opening businesses and returning to normal, maybe the Coronavirus will go away with the advent of warm weather. The stock market pundits, the digital gurus, the scallawags, the financial experts, the master CEOs, the software programmers, the Quants…all take heart and leap into the market with great abandon. By the end of the day, the markets were up over 2%. Not bad when you just laid off 17,000,000 people in the last three weeks.

I continue to be frustrated by the markets. They do not behave the way I think they should. Not that I have a dog in that fight. No, I moved what little 401k money I have into a money market account. I am into preserving the money I have, not making a killing in the markets. Nevertheless, I cannot help but think the markets are all wrong. I cannot help but think we are entering a Depression such as only my father would know. 

But the wisdom of the markets is greater than mine. They are in “Risk-On” mood. And so it goes for the rest of the week. On Thursday, April 16th, when the new unemployment claims are reported to be 5,200,000 more people, the markets shrug it off. It must be some kind of anomaly…that is the presiding wisdom. The country is getting ready to go back to normal. Restaurants and bars will soon be open. And then the 22,000,000 plus people who have filed for unemployment will so go back to work. By the end of week, the markets put in a solid gain, coming within 20% of their all-time highs. Happy days are here again.

So the markets end the week further up, proving once again their wisdom is greater than mine. I think a depression is on its way, they think the V-shaped recovery has begun. Expert economists, prolific pundits, ethereal quants, software programmers, oil traders, market gurus and assorted other scallawags predict we are on our way to new market highs. I sit back and wonder why. If you look at a V closely you will notice that the bottom of a V is a sharp point. We have have been going through this Coronavirus situation for over 6 weeks. I think it is time to admit if we are going to have any kind of recovery, the best we will get is a U shaped recovery.

I am just looking on from a distance. I am not severely affected by what is going on. Our two businesses have been remarkably lucky. We are still taking orders and shipping. We have 14 people working in our warehouse and 12 people working remotely. Our Panther Martin fishing lures seems to be doing pretty well. I am thinking part of the reason is that people can catch fish with fishing lures and therefore they can justify the expense. They can, after all, put food on the kitchen table with our lures.

The fact that our Sea Eagle inflatable boats are also doing well is harder to explain. I am somewhat baffled by that. Of course, customers can, like me, go solo paddling or rowing  or fishing where that is permitted, but some states have closed boating. I am guessing access depends on where people live. For me, living directly on the water, it is very practical and very safe to go paddling or rowing. I literally have only seen a total 5 people out on my bays in the last 4 months. I have never been closer than 50 or a 100 feet from anyone I have seen. So I am rigorously practicing social distancing. In fact, getting close to anyone else on the water is almost impossible where I live.

I know that will change as the weather gets warmer. No doubt, more people will come out on the water, but even in the height of the summer season on my bays, I am never near another boat, SUP or kayak. And I would suppose that there are many places in this great Republic where that is the case. So perhaps that is the explanation of why our inflatable boats sales are still up. It is something people can still do without the fear that they are going to contract the Coronavirus.

Of course, another explanation could be that most retail stores are closed and our website is not. And since almost all of our trade customers are other websites, they also are not closed. So, unlike many other boat companies, we are open and able to take orders.

A last explanation could be that many people are getting really bad cases of cabin fever and while they are sitting home, they are scanning the internet ordering things that they plan to use as soon as this country opens up.

Whatever the reason our businesses have lucky in this crisis and I am grateful for our good fortune.

I cannot help but think and wonder how the country will handle the transition back to some kind of normalcy. Will we open up quickly? Will it go well? Will the virus fade as the cold weather of spring gives way to the warmth of summer. Or will the country open up in some places and find the virus coming back with a vengeance sending us into a new round of closures and quarantine? Who knows. In the meantime, I intend to paddle or row whenever the weather is favorable.

This week I rowed quite literally everyday. Rowing, as mentioned before, is a full body exercise and a way to get outside on the water and see wide horizons. I do enjoy that. But the real reason that I have rowed most days this week is because of the Northwest wind. It has been running at a steady 15 to 20 mph with gusts up to 25 and 30 mph. And because this is April, the temperature has been acting like…guess what…April. Meaning that total body exercise keeps your total body warmer, not to mention the simple fact that it is easier to row through a 25mph wind than to paddle through it. Two oars are more effective than one double end paddle. So this week I have stuck with rowing.

Geez, I can actually see the bottom. Yes, there is a good side to this Pandemic.

I have to say there is a good side to this Pandemic. The waters of my bay are cleaner than I have seen them in years. That is probably because no big boats have started to motor around our bays. Usually, by this time there are some young and exuberant kneeboarders are out in wetsuits motoring around in large Mastercrafts, churning up the bottom of the bay as they motor around in circles. I would imagine the large Mastercrafts have not been able to get out because boat yards and marinas are presently closed.

And so I have the clear waters of my bay to myself. I can only hope that means that our bays will have more minnows and fish this summer. That will be seen with time. In these last years, the quality of our bays waters have suffered from a multitude of problems…road runoff, soaps, detergents and fertilizer working there way from sewage tanks to the bay waters along with all the other ingredients that sewage tanks contain. There is also the not so small issue that Stony Brook University, which is about 3 miles from my house, dumps its treated sewage into Port Jefferson Bay, right in front of the electrical plant. So there have been a lot of culprits that contributed to the poor quality of our bay waters.

What I can say though is that the present waters are clearer than I have seen them in many years. Perhaps, that is because Stony Brook University is presently also closed and without 35,000 students creating the sewage, there is far less sewage to dump into our waters. Perhaps, that is also because there are fewer cars on the roads and they spew less fumes and gas onto the road which eventually makes their way to the bays. Perhaps, that is also because there are far fewer planes in the sky and whatever pollution that is falling to earth is far less. Perhaps, farmers are putting less fertilizer on nearby farms.

I am guessing the sewage from houses surrounding our bays has not changed much. In fact, they may be somewhat increased because the houses may be more crowded because so many are staying home and are unemployed.

Whatever the true case may be, I am happy to see the clearer waters and I am hoping they will stay clearer for the summer and we see an explosion of sea life. That may be too much to ask for.

I am sorry for those who have lost jobs in this crisis. I have friend who was a bus driver. He felt pretty secure about his job. When the first closures came, his boss told him not to worry, he would have a job even if the schools were closed. After all, the schools had signed a contract with the bus company and they were obligated to fulfill their contract. That idea seemed to work well for about a week, but then the Governor of New York said the schools were not getting monies when they were closed. The schools promptly turned around and said they were not going to pay bus companies to deliver non-existent students when they had no money. It was another classic of no money, no honey.

And so my friend was out of a job. His boss did call him up and said he had good news: now my friend could apply for unemployment and get an extra $600 a week for next 8 weeks and have unemployment checks for at least 39 weeks. Heck, he might even get more pay out this thing. My friend did not take it as good news. He called unemployment to sign up. They said they would call back in 3 days. They did call back 5 days later and tell him he was all signed up. Then, when he went to report that he was unemployed for the week, he was informed that his unemployment was not fully filled out and that he had to call back to complete his unemployment claim.

The only problem with that was that when he called back, he could not get through. So he has now called about 128 times and kept getting the same message: call back at another time when our operators are able to talk to you. It seems that this process of filing for unemployment claims is hit or miss. Of the 12 fellow workers that he was laid off with, one did get a call back and he did complete his filing over the phone and, in fact, he has received his first unemployment payment. So the system did work for him.

Interestingly enough, his friend’s wife, also a fellow employee, was also fairly lucky. She called at one morning at 7:36 am and was put on hold. She hung in there and by 10:02 am she did speak to an unemployment agent who did complete her filing. The agent said all she had to do was wait for a notice to come in the mail in 7 to 10 days and then she could call and then her unemployment payments would come shortly thereafter. So, theoretically, she will receive payments in two weeks or so…theoretically.

In the meantime, my friend, after dialing the designated unemployment number literally hundreds of times did finally get a call back. This time the person on the phone was very helpful and did get him signed up. Now, all has to do is wait for the money to start flowing, which should happen in early May. It is a good thing he had a little extra money to tide him over while he went through this process. That allowed him to pay his monthly bills for cable TV, rent, food, credit cards and other necessities. Lucky for him.

April 23, 2020

The stock markets started this week badly and then got better. The last two days the market has been up. Today, it was announced another 4,400,000 more people have filed unemployment claims. Of course, that is only the people who have successfully succeeded in filing their claim. The markets apparently are focused on the coming V-shaped recovery and take the news in stride. The markets start strong most of that day but end with small losses for the session.

Oil, that universal commodity, succeeded on Monday in doing something I previously thought impossible. WTI actually traded down to minus $37. per barrel. I had not thought that was possible. Some oil pundits came on financial channels to say it all was really very normal (even if I never recall it happening in the last 50 years). Nothing to be concerned about, the pundits said. It happens at the end of every quarter. Funny, I don’t remember that ever being mentioned on Bloomberg, Fox Business News, CNBC. I must have just missed it every quarter.

On that Thursday the weather is surprisingly cold and unappealing. There is not much wind, but low clouds hang over of my bay giving the day a cold and gloomy feel. By midday, it begins to rain, but that too, like the stock market that day, fades. I take the absence of rain as an opportunity to go for a row.

Out on the water, I am immediately accosted by incoming calls. My cell phone is always at the ready and so I talk about a new catalog with my printer rep and different working times for a couple of our remote workers. The calls go smoothly and I quickly return to rowing. I do not know why, no matter the weather or temperature, I never get bored, even though I am rowing on the very same bays. Somehow it is always different each time and somehow each row is new and unique.

That evening, I watched what I call the Donald Trump Show. The Donald Trump Show was a new feature that emerged shortly after the Coronavirus became a major cause of infection and death. This show was originally scheduled to be the Coronavirus Update Show headed by a couple of doctors, but then it was pre-emptied by the Vice President Pence’s Coronavirus Show, only to be finally pre-emptied by the Donald Trump Virus and Fake News Show. It comes on nightly somewhere around when CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, CBS, NBC, ABC and other media channels would normally have peak viewership. And the Donald Trump Show last for one or two hours. It is like a 101 Fireside Chats in 30 days with our President, but these chats are more like Fire and Fury Chats.

Anyway, on this particular evening, The President introduced a gentleman from Homeland Security in a nice uniform who said part of his job was tracking and studying the effects of the Coronavirus. Apparently, Homeland Security is most interested in this subject. This man explained that he and his scientific team had discovered that the Coronavirus was killed quickly by alcohol, bleach and sunlight. This caught my eye. At a younger age,  I might have taken this man’s study as a recommendation to drink a lot of Jack Daniels, but being older, what caught my eye was the fact that apparently sunlight would kill the virus in about 60 seconds. 

Lessons from the New Scientific Study – Go Outside.

I have to say I really liked that conclusion of that man’s study. I might not go with drinking bleach or alcohol, but going outside in the sun seemed like a winner idea to me.

I think one of the points of this man’s study was that when the weather gets warmer and sun comes out, the Coronavirus will go away. I hope it is so. And if you ask me it will come none too soon for the Trump Administration. On that very day, the Coronavirus was approaching 50,000 deaths, up almost 30,000 deaths since I started writing this blog story. My, how the time and numbers do fly.

By April 24th, 10 days after I started this blog story, there were almost 50,000 deaths in the U.S. from the Coronavirus. That is an increase of about 30,000 deaths in 10 days.

So, as you can see from the chart above, deaths from the Coronavirus has been increasing rapidly. Earlier on the Donald Trump Coronavirus Show, our President had said that earliest projections of deaths for the Coronavirus could result one to two million people dying. But now, thanks to quick action by Donald Trump on testing and closing down flights to China and Europe, a later projection showed that they expected the real total to be somewhere between 100,000 and 240,000. Then, a few days later the President announced that a new highly regarded model projected only 60,000 deaths. That was about 7 days ago.

The only problem was now the death toll was already almost 50,000 people, so it was getting mighty close to that 60,000 number. Enter the gentleman from Homeland Security.

I gathered the message was like that little girl’s song in the play Annie: “The sun will come out tomorrow.”

April 25, 2020

I went for a row this Saturday. It was the first day you could imagine that spring had arrived. The temperature got up into the low 60s, the wind, while cool and a little breezy, was relatively mild out of the Northwest. Water clarity of my bay was at an all time high…at least in my experience. I could actually see the bottom even though it was over 6 feet deep. That was unique in the my experience. Many days last summer it was impossible to see my paddle blade even though it was only 6″ below the surface of the water.

Over the weekend there has been a big outcry because on the Friday Trump Coronavirus Show the President suggested that perhaps we could consider injecting bleach into our bodies to get rid of the Coronavirus. Or perhaps we could shine UV light into some internal parts of the body to blast out the virus. Both of the suggestions were met with wide derision from the medical community. The President then said he was just being sarcastic in order to answer a rude question from a rude reporter. I don’t remember the rude question or the rude reporter or thinking that the President’s remarks were sarcastic.

I suppose sarcasm is in the eye of the beholder.

In any case, the President was so miffed that he sent out a tweet saying as long as he faced questions from rude reporters maybe the Trump Coronavirus Show was “not worth his time”. That was strange because I thought these Coronavirus reports were supposed to be for the public’s benefit. I guess everything is in the eye of the beholder.

That did not last long, because two days later the President gathered some industry leaders (an impressive group of lab testing companies, major retailers and drugstores) and held a press conference that looked an awful like the Trump Coronavirus Show. The upshot of that was these various companies were getting together to provide more and better testing. Now, once and for all, America was going to have all the testing it needs.

Asked by a reporter whether we would be able to test 5 million people a day, he said, “Yes, we are getting there soon.”

The next day the President denied every saying we would ever be able to test 5 million people a day. That was echoed by another gentleman in his Administration, who when asked about testing 5 million people a day, said, “Not on this earth.”

April 28th, 2020

Jared Kushner, the President’s son in law, got on Fox News and said they had done a great job in handling the Coronavirus Crisis. 

Later that day, the United States passed 1,000,000 Coronavirus cases and 60,000 deaths from Coronavirus. If you remember way back when, when I began this blog story on April 12th, there were just over 500,000 Coronavirus cases in the U.S. and 20,000 deaths in the U.S. In other words, in a little over two weeks, the number cases doubled and the number of deaths increased two and half times.

None of this seemed to bother the stock markets which went up strongly that day.

April 30th, 2020

It is jobs claims day and with it another 3.8 million put in claims for unemployment. That brought the total in just 6 weeks to 30,000,000 people who claimed unemployment. For the day, stocks go down, but for the month, stocks have their best month since 1987. The S&P, for example, ended the month up 13%. Go figure?

I wish I could say I was rowing and paddling each day this last week, but the weather has been pretty miserable with rain and high winds and temperatures in the 50s and 60s.

Tomorrow is the first of May and guess what: rain and high winds are forecast. The weekend looks a lot better with the hope of sunny skies and higher temperatures. It might actually get close to 70 degrees. I think I will row or paddle then. 

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