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.

About Cecil Hoge

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3 Responses to Into 2021 We Go

  1. Joseph Nicholas says:

    Cecil, this is one of your best. Wise and sage words from a person with “gravitas”. Not a talking head with an extreme agenda posing as a journalist. I’m not blowing smoke by any means when I say that your writing style has evolved measuredly and I congratulate you on your work!

  2. Martha Peterson says:

    Cecil, love your writings & thoughts. I especially enjoy the narratives on your lunch breaks with your wife – a simpler and peaceful time. I think I should get out on the water….

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