Moses Drury Hoge – Preacher to the Confederacy During The Disunion

Moses Drury Hoge, one in a long line of family preachers

Moses Drury Hoge, one in a long line of family preachers

By Cecil Hoge

I have mentioned on this blog that I come from a long line of preachers and pirates. In “Grandpa Gets Busted”, I discussed the pirate side of my family, citing my grandfather, Edwin Shewan, who repaired ships for the Atlantic fleet and ran liquor during prohibition. In “Sailing Clipper Ships Around the World”, I recounted some of the exploits my great, great, great, great uncle, Andrew Shewan, who was a captain of clipper ships that sailed from Scotland and England to China and India, sometimes carrying cargoes of a dubious nature. Those two Shewan men came from a long line of sea captains who, the further you go back the more likely it was that they were pirates or privateers appropriating cargoes from Spain or some other unfortunate country…no doubt in the good services of an English Queen or King.

I would like to say that my claim to be related to a long line of preachers is equally secure. In this, I offer up my great, great, great, great grandfather, Moses Drury Hoge, shown above. Not only was he preacher, his father, Samuel Hoge, also was a pastor, as was his father’s father, named, not co-incidentally, Moses Hoge. Given this long line of distinguished preachers, I can say that coursing my viens is the blood of both pirates and preachers. This mixed heritage had left me confused at times and perhaps, sometimes led to a few mistakes in the direction of my life.

Here are some facts about the preacher side of my family. Moses Hoge, Moses Drury Hoge’s grandfather and Drury Lacy were both associated with the founding of a church in Richmond, VA. and with the founding of Hampden Sydney College – both having served as Presidents of Hampden Sydney College. Samuel Davies Hoge wed Elizabeth Rice Lacy in 1817. Samuel was a pastor at Bethesda Church located at the Culpeper Court-house. Moses Drury Hoge was born September 17, 1818.

John Blairsville Hoge, another relative, said at the time of his birth, “Take this child and train it for heaven.”

So it could be said that from birth there were high expectations of Moses Drury Hoge.

Moses was a constant reader, well read both in the Bible and the Classics. He went Hampden Sydney College in 1836 at the age of 18. After graduating, Moses became a trustee of that college at an early age. According to another preacher and relative, Peyton Harrison Hoge, Moses Drury Hoge was “a moral man and shrank from whatever was low and defiling.” In college and afterwards, Moses associated with Christians, many of whom were Presbyterian ministers. At college and as soon as he himself climbed the pulpit, Moses gained a widespread reputation as an orator and preacher. His speeches were considered brilliant and powerful.

In the 1850s Moses had the opportunity to go to Europe. In England he met many Presbyterian Ministers and became acquainted with the leaders of the Church in England.

While still in college, he was approached by the Reverend B.M. Smith, a young minister himself, to become a minister. Moses had all the right stuff…coming from a long line of ministers, preachers & pastor’s, being both serious and religious, well versed in the Classics. Strangely, at the time Moses replied that he doubted he would live long enough. It seemed his early health was not the best and for some time he thought he might die of consumption. That did not happen and some time later, after being approached by more preachers, he decided to enter Seminary School.

He was licensed as a minister by West Hanover Presbyterian Church in Lynchburg on October 6th, 1846. This was the same church in which his father and grandfather had been licensed. Thus three generations of the same family were connected by this strange sequence of events in the same church.

Apparently, Moses was a star preacher and orator from the start. Moses Drury Hoge was thought to be a great and powerful orator. In the early part of 1844, he became a minister at the First Presbyterian Church on Franklin Street, near the Exchange Hotel.

Second Presbyterian Church where Moses Drury Hoge preached to Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and many other leaders of the Confederacy.

Second Presbyterian Church which Moses Drury Hoge founded and later preached to Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and many other leaders of the Confederacy.

His church was crowded from the beginning, Sunday after Sunday.

On March 20th, 1844, he married Miss Susan Wood. They made their home at the Exchange Hotel. At this time, his health still was not good. This changed when he went to Europe. In the spring of 1854, he went abroad for five months to London, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Dublin, Brussels, Antwerp, Cologne, Frankfurt, Zürich, Lucerne, Berne, Milan, Genoa, Turin, Verona, Venice, Lyons and Paris. In doing so, he also visited many of the finest lakes and the grandest mountains in the world. Apparently, it was the trips to the mountains and the lakes that improved his health.

In 1855, after returning from Europe, Moses and a Dr. Moore, another fellow pastor, purchased the Watchman, a respected Presbyterian publication. The two partners changed the name to Central Presbyterian. Moses became the editor of that paper and wrote editorials in that paper from 1855 to 1879.

By 1855, he had three children, one of whom, Fanny, died in 1851. In his travels around the country, Moses preached in Brooklyn at the Academy of Arts. It was gathering of ministers from all over the country and was well-received. His first son was born in 1859. It was around this time that debates about secession became prominent in Moses’s life. Moses did not think of the Civil War as having its origin in the debate over Slavery.

Moses, according to his nephew, Peyton Harrison Hoge, in his book “The Life and Letters of Moses Drury Hoge”, agreed with the words of John Randolf Ticker:

“The North fought for the great political idea – the idea of the Union; the South fought for another great political idea – the idea of local self-government. Preserve the two and the war will not have been fought in vain”.

Apparently, Moses did not approve of slavery. On receiving a number of slaves from his wife’s estate, he offered them their liberty. Interestingly, only one accepted and the others remained with Moses and his wife. At another time Moses bought 5 slaves, the relatives of his hired servants and then set them free.

In any case, Moses Drury Hoge still preached to slaveholders. He may have abhorred the institution, but he did not condemn it. Moses was apparently in favor of sending slaves back to Africa.

“I was pained in observing the extensive disaffection to the Union which seemed to prevail in that part of Virginia. It strikes me if you expressed anything too strongly it was when you spoke of the small number in the South who are in favor of secession, if it could be accomplished peacefully.” Moses Hoge wrote in 1851.

In 1859, Moses wrote to his brother, William Hoge, who was also a minister, at the time preaching in New York:

“Tomorrow is our Thanksgiving Day. One thing darkens its joy. Shall as many States ever again celebrate one day united in one Confederacy? I trust and pray He will save us from the wrath and folly of war. But my own hopes have never been so darkened. The people have in a great measure lost their horror of disunion. I still believe an overwhelming majority love the union.”

But as time went on Moses changed his attitude towards the North. In another letter in January of 1861 he says, “I have considered the state of Northern aggression very ominous for many years.”

And then he writes his brother:

“My Dear Brother: The thing we have feared is upon us. The spirit of Cain is rampart, and we seem about to plunge headlong into an unnatural and diabolical war. We may not long have the privilege of even writing to each other…You are right in the impression expressed in your letter to the Central Presbyterian that Virginia has nothing to expect by way of conciliation or concession from the North…The war spirit is fearfully aroused here, and the fierce demon of religious fanaticism breathes out threatening and slaughter. It is not safe even for a minister to counsel peace.”

By the middle of 1861, Moses Drury Hoge’s opinion of the coming conflict changed and he came to the conclusion that the South was right in its quest to secede. In another letter to his sister June 1, 1861, he says:

“With my whole mind and heart I go into the secession movement. I think providence has devolved on us the preservation of constitutional liberty, which has already been trampled under the foot of a military despotism at the North…I consider our contest as one which involves principles more important than those for which our fathers of the Revolution contended.”

After the war began Moses worked at “Camp Lee”. He wanted to become a chaplain to a regiment, but he was persuaded that he was needed at the center of the Confederacy.
Writing his wife on June 24th, 1862 describing the battle lines being set up at “Nine Mile Road” he wrote:

“The town is now all excitement in anticipation of the battle which is expected to come off tomorrow or next day. Jackson and Ewell are said to be in Hanover, ready to strike McClellan’s army in the flank. The conflict will be tremendous, but I have no fears as the result. I think we will utterly rout our enemies, by the blessing of God, and we live in Richmond in long suspense of it, and of the burden of having two vast armies in its vicinity, consuming everything there is to eat…All my concern is for the multitude who must fall, and for the number of the wounded who will crowd our houses and hospitals.”

Two days later the “Seven Days” fighting began, resulting in the withdrawing of McClellan and the present relief of Richmond.

In the early days of the Civil War or the Disunion, as some called it, there is the curious story of Moses overhearing some soldiers talking.

One soldier said, “I wish all the Yankees were in hell.”

Moses said, “Would you not see them sent to heaven?”

“No I would rather see them in hell.” Said the soldier.

“Oh,” said Moses, “I thought you would probably prefer them to be where there is less probability of your meeting them.”

This apparently caused laughter in the soldiers.

At this time, Moses was also made the honorary Chaplain of the Confederate Congress. Moses wrote his brother, William Hoge, about his many duties at the beginning of the war:

“When you saw something of my manner of life in former days, you thought me a busy man, but I am now the most pressed, the most beset and bothered brother you ever had. My 6 sermons a week, and funerals extra, might fill up all my time reasonably well, with pastoral visits thrown in to fill up the chinks, but it is only the beginning of the Illiad. I have opened Congress every day this session…life of late has been all work and no play with me…I have been preaching the last three Sunday afternoons to the Fourteenth Regiment near the reservoir.”

In another letter to his brother, he wrote:

“I had my first sight of the enemy day before yesterday…The enemy’s pickets were about 500 yards distant, in full view…It gave me new indignation to see them walking and riding about in a locality which I was so familiar. McClellan has his headquarters at friends Webb…There is no panic among our people. Resistance is to the death and is the calm determination of the citizens and our soldiers are confident of victory.”

As the war proceeded Moses found himself closer and closer to battles. Here is a description by Moses of The Battle of Seven Pines:

“We halted a moment at a building about two miles from the disease of the battlefield where we saw a great number of our wounded – which had been brought and laid, some of them on the floor, and others on the ground around the house – the surgeons standing over them with bloody hands and knives, busy making amputations, bandaging up wounds…Before reaching this building, we saw many of our men wounded, yet able to walk, staggering towards the city, other were conveyed on horseback, in ambulances, or in litters, carried by their comrades. Some of these men were groaning, others seemed ready to faint with pain or loss of blood, while others went along sang froid.

“Passing the temporary hospital, near the roadside, I begged to go in and take a look at the condition of things there. It was a spectacle at which the Angels might weep! No one knows what war is who has not seen military hospitals; not of the sick but of the cut, maimed and mutilated in all the ways in which the human body can be dishonored and disfigured. Inside the hospital on the floor, the men lay so thick that it was difficult to walk without stepping on them. I kneeled down and prayed for God to comfort them, give them patience under their sufferings, spare their lives, bless those dear to them, and satisfy to them in their present trials.

“On the ride back to town, the scene which the road presented was one never to be forgotten. Artillery and baggage, wagons were coming out, while ambulances, hacks, buggies and persons on horseback were going in. These meeting in narrow places, blocked up the way. Omnibus and other heavy vehicles were stuck fast in the mud, which drivers were trying to prize out; and in the midst of the noise and the confusion the groans of wounded men, jolted and jerked about, could be heard everywhere. I was glad when the first gas lights of the city came in view, fatigued as I was, covered with mud, and wet from wading the swamp road after I gave up my horse to the wounded boy. I immediately went off to the War Office and found Secretary Randolph still in his house. I gave him some account of what I had seen…on reaching home, I found good Susan, standing in the front door, watching and waiting for me.”

In the first years of the Disunion, Stonewall Jackson came to Moses Hoge’s church and listened to many of Moses’s sermons.

The beloved Stonewall Jackson

The beloved Stonewall Jackson

As a sign of his respect and trust, Stonewall Jackson gave Moses the following pass:

Headquarters, Valley District, Near Richmond
“Permit the bearer, the Rev. Moses D. Hoge, to pass at pleasure from Richmond to any part of my command.”
T. J. Jackson, Major General

General Jackson was a member of Moses Hoge’s congregation and General Lee was a close and personal friend. Moses’s friendship and association with Stonewall Jackson grew until Jackson was killed.

In 1863 Reverend Moses Hoge took a steamer from Charleston to England in order to get 35,000 bibles, prayer books and testaments. This was a dangerous mission because they had to run a blockade and the captain had instructions to scuttle the ship if capture was imminent. That meant that the passengers would have to get on small boats at the last minute, and make their way to shore. Moses wrote to his brother explaining this and asking him not to tell his wife who would be terrified.

Later, in a letter to his sister, after he had successfully passed through the blockade, Moses wrote enthusiastically about this escapade:

“Our run of the blockade was glorious. I was in one of the severest and bloodiest battles fought near Richmond, but it was not more exciting than that midnight adventure, when, amid lowering clouds and dashes of rain, and just wind enough to get up sufficient commotion in the sea to drown the noise of our paddle wheels, we darted along, with lights all extinguished, and not even a cigar burning on the deck, until we were safely out, and free from the the Federal fleet. In Nassau we chartered a little twenty-ton schooner, hired a crew of negroes, and made a fine run to Havana, where we got on the Royal Mail Steamship Line, to St. Thomas, and so to Southampton.”

In London, Moses gave an account of the Southern cause to Lord Shaftsbury who then announced that they would send 10,000 bibles, 50,000 testaments and 250,000 portions of the Psalms and Gospels.

Among the many people that Moses met when he was in England, was Thomas Carlyle. Apparently, Carlyle, because he was interested in the right of the Able-man to rule, took a steep interest in the Confederate cause. While Moses was obtaining bibles in England, his brother William was visiting Stonewall Jackson’s troops near Fredericksburg to engage in mission work among the soldiers. Shortly thereafter, Stonewall Jackson was killed in an unfortunate accident, shot by his own troops.

William Hoge, Moses Hoge’s brother, wrote his wife about Jackson’s funeral. Here is part of his letter:

“So I will begin with “Gordonsville”. About ten minutes after I our train arrived, the special train came slowly around the curve, bearing it’s sad, precious burden, the dead body of our beloved glorious Jackson. As it drew near, the minute guns, the soldiers funeral bell, sounded heavily. How strange it seemed that a crowd so eager should be so still, and that Jackson should be received with silent tears instead of loud-ringing huzzas. As the train stopped, I caught sight of the coffin, wrapped in the flag he had borne so high and made so radiant with glory so pure. Many wreaths of exquisite flowers, too, covered it from head to foot. Sitting near the body were young Morrison, his brother-in-law, our dear friend Jimmy Smith, and Major Pendleton.
“I asked if Mrs. Jackson would like to see me. And there sat this noble little woman in her widow’s weeds, a spectacle to touch and instruct any heart…And there, just before her lay her sweet little babe, little Julia, named by him for his mother, the babe he had never seen till her recent ten days visit abruptly ended by the great battle; the babe he delighted in…here it lay on its back, the best little thing, looking so tender and so unconscious of its part in these tremendous scenes, not starting, or ceasing the meaningless pretty motions of its little hands, as the cannon thundered.”

While Moses was in England, he also learned of the death of his son, Lacy Hoge. Soon afterwards, Moses returned to the States, first sailing to Halifax and then going to Bermuda. From there Moses steamed in the blockade-runner, “The Advance”. As they came to Wilmington and Cape Fear the Northern fleet was in full view. The captain, apparently drunk at the time, steamed ahead and soon they were fired upon by the Northern fleet. Fortunately, they came within range of Confederate guns at Fort Fisher and soon they were firing at the three Northern ships pursuing them. While this situation was not helped by the captain being drunk as he approached Wilmington, it perhaps gave the captain the courage he needed to run past the three Northern ships.

For Moses, now safely landed, the contrast between London and Wilmington apparently was stark. Wilmington had been decimated by yellow fever earlier that year and was a terrible and forlorn comparison to the bustling and prosperous London. Perhaps, more discouraging was the fact the his bibles and testaments never did make it to the Confederacy. They were captured December 6th, 1863. So it could be said that his mission was a failure.

Moses was able to carry some sample bibles with him which he then sent to various Confederate military men. And Moses did receive several letters of thank you from leading generals in the Confederate army, including letters from Robert E. Lee and Jeb Stuart.

In 1864, his brother, William Hoge, died, adding more sorrow to Moses. Apparently, after preaching and working in hospitals, William Hoge’s strength gave out and he passed away.

As the end of the Civil War approached, it fell to Moses Hoge to write a resolution appointing a day of fasting and prayer. Moses also accompanied Jefferson Davis and his cabinet as they withdrew from Richmond. If he had remained in Richmond he would have to take an oath of allegiance to the United States. Moses was not willing to do that as long as the Confederate Government existed.

After the war, Virginia and all the Southern States were governed as a conquered province by military law and martial authority. It must have been a time of profound despair for Moses. He wrote to his sister in May, 1865:

“I forget my humiliation for a while in sleep, but the memory of every bereavement comes back heavily, like a sullen sea surge, on awaking, flooding and submerging my soul with anguish. The idolized expectation of a separate nationality, of a social life and literature and civilization of our own, together with a gospel guarded against the contamination of New England infidelity, all this has perished, and I feel like a shipwrecked mariner thrown up like a seaweed on a desert shore. I hope my grief is manly. I have no disposition to indulge in lousy complaints. God’s dark providence has enraptured me like a pall. I cannot comprehend, but I will not charge Him foolishly; I cannot explain, but I will not murmur. To me our overthrow is the worst thing that could have happened to the South – the worst thing that could have happened for the North, and for the cause of constitutional freedom and of religion on the continent. But the Lord has prepared his throne in the heavens and His Kingdom rules over all. I have not been very well since the surrender. Other seas will give up their dead, but my hopes went down in to one from which there is no resurrection.”

Moses became very active in helping with the reconstruction after the war, but in 1868 a new personal problem arose. An attack of facial paralysis made speech impossible. This of course meant that he could no longer preach. Fortunately, this condition only lasted for a few months. Thereafter, his ability to preach was completely restored.

During the 24 years of their married life, Moses Hoge’s wife had lost her father, mother, brother, five grown sisters, and four children; the last, little Genevieve, dying at Mr. James Seddon’s, just as their hearts were crushed with the downfall of the Confederacy.
In the spring of 1868, she contracted a fatal disease. On November 23rd, 1868 she died.

General Robert E. Lee

General Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee wrote Moses a letter condolence to Moses. Here is part of what he said:

“I hope you felt assured that in this heavy calamity you and your children had the heart-felt sympathy of myself and Mrs. Lee, and that you were daily remembered in our poor prayers.
With our best wishes and sincere affection, I am
Very truly yours, R.E. Lee”

Two other disasters occurred in 1868, the Senate Chamber in Richmond collapsed and killed 65 persons and injured 200 others and the President of the former Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, passed away.

Because Richmond was almost completely destroyed, Moses was urged by many to restart his church in some other place. Moses thought this over, but decided to remain in Richmond. This proved to be a good solution in the end and the church in Richmond prospered as Richmond was rebuilt.

In 1872 Moses went north to Princeton College and preached in their chapel. This sermon was well accepted. This led to other sermons in Philadelphia and New York. These sermons were also well accepted. By this time, Moses Drury Hoge was a famous and revered Presbyterian minister.

Moses Hoge also spoke at the World’s Evangelical Alliance. He was invited to speak on the “Mission Field of the South”. His address was well accepted and apparently established his fame throughout the Christian World.

Here is what Moses wrote his sister in October 16, 1873 about his sermon in New York:

“I found the church packed, aisles and all. I preached a sermon I had arranged that afternoon (having changed my theme after dinner) without any notes, and I had what the old divines used to call “liberty” of feeling, thought and expression, which greatly helped me in the delivery.”

Where Stonewall Jackson spent his last minutes alive

Where Stonewall Jackson spent his last minutes alive

In 1875, Moses gave the oration commemorating the Foley statue of Stonewall Jackson. This statue was presented to Richmond by an Englishman sympathetic to the Southern cause. Here is part of what Moses said:

“And now, standing before this statue, I speak not for myself, but for the South, when I say it is our interest, our duty and our determination, to maintain the Union, and to make every possible contribution to its prosperity and glory, if all the States which compose it will unite in making such a union as our fathers framed, and enthroning above it, not Caesar, but the Constitution in its solid supremacy.”

Apparently Moses was upset when the London Times wrote an article suggesting that his speech had political motivations. Moses response was this:

“So far from it, I announced it to be the purpose of the Southern people to maintain the government as it was now constituted, though we should profess no love for a Union in which the Southern States are denied privileges accorded to the Northern.
Moreover, I said, “We accept this statue as a pledge of the peaceful relations which we trust will ever exist between Great Britain and the confederated empire formed by the United States of America.”

Moses was also upset at the New York Tribune because he thought they misrepresented the design and spirit of his speech at the unveiling of the Jackson statue.

Moses wrote, “The celebration here had no political significance whatever. It has not had the slightest political effect. It was not intended to excite animosity especially between the North and the South, not to stir up rancor between Great Britain and America.”

However, according to the account of D.H. Hill, perhaps, Moses got somewhat carried away by the event:

“Dr. Hoge made the mighty effort of his life. He was inspired by the grandeur of the occasion, by the vastness of the audience, and above all by the greatness of the subject of his eulogy. He impressed all who heard him that he is the most eloquent orator on this continent…Dr. Hoge, in closing his address, alluded to the prophecy of Jackson, that the time would come when his men would be proud that they belonged to the Stonewall Brigade. Rising to his full height, the orator exclaimed in his clear, ringing tones:

‘Men of the Stonewall Brigade, that time has come. Behold the image of your illustrious commander.'”

D. H. Hill concluded: “The veil was raised, the life-like statue stood revealed, recalling so vividly the loved form of the illustrious soldier that tears rained down ten thousand faces. Men of sternest natures, cast iron men, we’re weeping like children.”

For the rest of his life, Moses went around the country preaching in both the North and South. There was still a great deal of bitterness and tenderness in both the North and South, so what Moses had to say was not always received well. There was still discord between North and South sections of the Presbyterian Church. Various assemblies were held in the North and South which Moses attended.

Here is part of what Moses had to say at one of these meetings:

“Who are the men who cannot bear the test of the light of our purity. Is there no genuine Presbyterians but ours? If the only pure Church is the Presbyterian Church of these Southern States; if the problem of the development of Christianity as symbolized in the Presbyterian faith and form of government had been solved only by us; if after all the great sacrifices of confessor and maters of past ages, we alone constituents the true Church; if this only is the result of the stupendous sacrifices, on Calvary, and the struggles of apostles and missionaries and reformers in all generations; then may God have mercy on the world and on the Church.”

By the late 1870s Moses was coming to grips with the end of the Disunion and making a new life for himself. In 1877 Moses wrote his sister from New Orleans:

“This is the land of summer most of the year, and of almost perpetual flowers, but the brightest and the most fragrant was the one wafted by a Northern breeze from New Brunswick.
We are having a pleasant time socially. A few of the old families here still retain their wealth and former homes and style of living. I dined yesterday with one of them. As we went in to dinner, the old lady on my arm, in passing the broad staircase there came floating down two young granddaughters all in white, looking like the angels who came down Jacob’s ladder, to bless the men who waited for their coming below.
The dinners have many courses here – with proper sequence, with the proper vegetables served with each meat or bird, and a great variety of wines. Well, it is pleasant to sit by a good old lady at such a dinner (provided her tender granddaughter is on the other side) and take course after course, leisurely, with much conversation between, anticipating the crowning cup of cafe noir and cigar.”

One senses that Moses Hoge and the world in the South are returning to some kind of normalcy and Moses in beginning to enjoy life again.

Moses attended a delegation of Presbyterian ministers, representing the Southern branch of ministers.

Here is what a paper called the Daily Review said:

“Exceptional interest was excited by the appearance of the next speaker, Dr. Hoge, of Richmond, Va. He stepped upon the platform – a tall, spare, muscular man, of military type of physique, and features bronzed by the sun. His manner at starting was almost painfully deliberate, and with cool self-restraint with which he surveyed his audience and measured his ground before he opened his lips deepened the interest which attended the beginning of his speech…he set forth, with great dignity…the leading points of his many sided subject – the simplicity and scriptural character of Presbyterianism, it expansiveness and adaption, and its friendly aspect to other churches.”

In the summer of 1877, Moses went to England to preach and minister there, meeting again with many members of the Church of England. The next summer, he also went abroad. After returning, Moses wrote:

“The old world was not so interesting to me the last time I saw it. I have become somewhat wearied with galleries, museums, and antiquities in architecture, and I find Europeans inferior to our own people in so many respects that I am more than ever contented with my own country.
All we need is the continuance of a free and stable government to make this the happiest country on the globe…I find, however, many thoughtful men look forward to a near future of strife and disintegration, which Heaven may avert.”

In 1880, he went to Italy and then on to Egypt, Palestine and Syria. For the rest of his life, he traveled and remained active as a minister. He died in a streetcar accident at the age of 80 on January 6th, 1899. Apparently, an electrified trolley car ran into Moses when he was driving his buggy. This resulted in his buggy being overturned. While he did not die immediately from the injuries he sustained, it was said that Moses was never the same vigorous man he had been for most of his 79 years of life. He died a month or so later, apparently from complications from the injuries he sustained in his streetcar accident.

In reading about Moses Drury Hoge, I found one thing very strange. If you read his letters you find that Moses was a very passionate man with extremely strong convictions. It had been my assumption that if I read the sermons of Moses Drury Hoge, I would find the same traits and ardent feeling expressed. So, while preparing to write this article, I bought a book entitled “The Perfection of Beauty and Other Sermons” by Moses Drury Hoge.

Now, having been brought as a Catholic, I was familiar with sermons and with the common fact that generally a priest or minister did not have much to say about the present day. Rather sermons always seemed rooted in what happened 1800 to 2000 years ago and have very little reference to any modern day events. Nevertheless, even the most parochial priest would make some reference to some modern day events or ills, be it drug addition, crime in the streets, some far off war or political events affecting our daily lives.

However, in reading the sermons of Moses Drury Hoge, there seems to be little or no reference to what must have been the most important events in his lifetime. I speak specifically of the War between the North and the South, the Civil War or The Disunion, as it had been alternatively referred to.

Moses does make some reference to modern times in “The Perfection of Beauty” sermon:

“Why is it that in none of the great resorts and haunts of pleasure and fashion collections are ever solicited for the suffering poor, for associations organized to advance all the forms of benevolence?”

Moses answers his own question by saying:

“There is but one gate through which the benefactions of the truly charitable forever flow, and that is the beautiful temple. Yes, this is one of the elements that constitutes the beauty of the church, it’s boundless benevolence, it’s wide-reaching, far-reaching, all-comprehending charity.”

Obviously, this was before Welfare, Medicaid, Medicare and Obamacare. Moses goes on to cite the comments of the Poet James Russell Lowell, who when attending a dinner party in London and heard some eloquent guest disparage Christianity. Moses quoted the following comments of James Russell Lowell:

“It is very easy gentlemen, sitting in an elegant apartment, around a table covered with flowers…to speculate about religion in a jocose way…our friends…would do well to be thankful they live in a land where the gospel has tamed the ferocity and beastliness of those who but for Christianity might have long eaten their carcasses…or cut off their heads and tanned their skins like the monsters of the French Revolution…”

Here I wish to interject that there are two sides to every argument. While it is long true that many arguments have correctly been made that Christianity has been a civilizing influence on human beings, human institutions and civilization, there have also been many arguments made that Christianity and the adherence to Specific sects of Christianity has also been the cause of many wars and the deaths of many people.

Moses Drury Hoge’s argument in this sermon, “The Perfection of Beauty” is that Christianity, and specifically Presbyterian Christianity is profoundly beautiful, beneficial and benevolent. Moses ends this sermon with the following words:

“Yes, my hearers, where this gospel goes, Liberty goes, just laws go, education goes, churches are built, all benign and institutions which bless and benefit society appear.”

That seems to as direct as Moses Drury Hoge gets in the printed sermons that I read to referring to his times. His sermons are all eloquent, but they are undated (at least in the book I have) and mysteriously, there it no reference to the war which tore our Union apart and so demoralized Moses. What is the explanation of that? I can only guess.

I have used two main references to gather information on my relative preacher/minister. One is the previously mentioned “The Life and Letters: Moses Drury Hoge” by Peyton Harrison Hoge published 1899. That book contains an amazing of amount of letters that Moses Drury Hoge wrote to his wife, his sister and his brother. It also includes a large number of letters written to him, some by quite famous people of that time. I have liberally quoted from those letters. The other reference is the book I just cited – “The Perfection of Beauty and Other Sermons” published in 1904 by what is ominously referred to as “The Presbyterian Committee of Publication”.

While Moses’s letters refer to Civil War and speak of that time as tumultuous, sad and tragic, the sermons that I have read do not make any reference to those times. In Peyton Harrison Hoge’s book there is mention that many of Moses Drury Hoge’s notes and written sermons were lost in clamor and confusion of the war. I suspect a darker secret.

I can only guess that even in 1899, when Peyton’s book was first published, there was still a great deal of sensitivity to the events and to the long term effects of the Civil War. I suspect the written sermons might actually have been destroyed or that references to the Civil War were actually taken out from whatever sermons did exist. This is, of course, just a wild guess. And I have not fact to cite to say that I am right.

Jefferson Davis

The former President Jefferson Davis

I would like to know what Moses said on the pulpit in his sermons during the Civil War when he addressed Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and other leaders of the Confederacy. In Peyton Harrison Hoge’s book, which I have quoted extensively, it is said that Moses Drury Hoge preached to over 100,000 Confederate soldiers. My question is what did he say to them? Did he make no reference to the great struggle they were in?

My guess is that he did refer to the great events that they were passing through and that Moses Drury Hoge had much to say about the position of the South.

Did he, for example, get up before his congregation and say with utmost conviction in his loud, sonorous, slow Southern drawl (I am also guessing what his voice sounded like):

“God has ordained that there will be a 1,000 years of slavery and God is on our side. The South will rise to be a great nation and we will live free under the benefice of God.”

Or did he say in a slow, dignified, powerful Southern drawl:

“The Southern States are right and moral in their pursuit of an individual country and an individual civilization, preserving the most honored institutions and examples of our Southern Confederacy. We shall emerge a free country to construct our own civilization as God has mandated we will.”

My guess is that he did not stand up for slavery itself because Moses was reputed to have sold slaves in order to free them. So I would think that Moses was very uncomfortable with the institution of slavery itself. However, I suspect that he did believe fervently, ardently, with all his heart and soul, in the right of the South to revolt and establish their own independent country.

We know that people’s beliefs evolve with time and no doubt the beliefs of Moses Drury Hoge went through several evolutions. Perhaps, as a young man, he believed in the Union as it existed at the time. Perhaps, as the years passed, he frowned on, disagreed with and was against slavery as an institution. But as the Civil War came closer and the movement for secession gained traction, perhaps, Moses came to be a fervent and ardent supporter of the Disunion, a believer in the rights of individual States to decide their own future and their own fate.

After the Civil War, Moses views and ardent opinions probably changed again with the new times and the new reality that the South had lost.

On July 2, 1881, President Garfield was assassinated. This sent, in the words of Peyton Harrison Hoge, “a thrill of horror through the country”.

By a strange co-incidence, Moses happened to be near New York City at the time of Garfield’s death. The funeral for President Garfield was to be held at The Fifth Avenue Church in New York. The pastor of that church happened to be traveling and was not able to give the oration for the funeral. After asking many ministers and preachers around who might be a good replacement, The Fifth Avenue Church were recommended Moses Drury Hoge to give the sermon for President Garfield’s funeral. And so they did.

Here is part of Moses’s oration:

 “Our present sorrow shows how God, in his provenance, can arrest the attention of the world, and make the heart of humanity tender, and so cause all to feel the dependence of man upon man, of State upon State, and of nation upon nation. The news of the attempt of the assassin was flashed all over the world, and then across all continents, and under all seas came electric messages of sympathy and condolence – China and Japan uniting with the states of Europe; paganism and Mohammedanism joining with all Christendom in the expression of common sorrow. Thus God makes the very wounds of humanity the fountains from which issue the tenderest sympathies and the sweetest charities which bring comfort to the suffering, which at the same time, make the whole world akin in the consciousness of common interests and interdependence.

“More practically important to us is the fact that the great bereavement we commemorate today has hushed the voice of party clamor, and at once rebuked and silenced the discord of sectional animosity.

“Death is the great reconciler.

“A Federal officer was mortally wounded on one of the battle fields of Virginia. As he lay upon the ground, far from his comrades, conscious that his end was near, while scattered soldiers of the Confederate Army went swiftly by, he called to an infantryman who was passing the spot, and asked him if he would offer him a prayer. The man replied “My friend, I am sorry I cannot comply with your request. I have never learned to pray for myself;” but he did what he could; he moved the officer into the shade, put something under his head, gave him some water out of his canteen and then hurried on. Presently a dismounted Union cavalryman, who had lost his horse came by. The confederate officer called to him and made the same request, “Won’t you stop and say a prayer for me?” The trooper kneeled down at the side of the dying man and commenced a prayer but as he uttered one tender petition after another, the officer used the little strength that remained to him in creeping closer and closer, until he placed both arms around the neck of the petitioner, and when the last words of the prayer were uttered, he was lying dead on the bosom of his late antagonist in battle, but in the parting hour he was one with him in the bonds of the gospel, a brother in Jesus Christ – united in love forever.

“Yes, death is the great reconciler.

“I am here today, while making a brief visit to a friend in an adjoining State, taking the only rest I have had for a year, an invitation came from the officers of this church urging me to perform this sad office in the absence of its honored pastor; and I stand here to represent the feelings of the Southern people, whose interests and whose sentiments are mine, and to say that today your sorrow is their sorrow, and your bereavement theirs. Today Richmond and Augusta and Charleston and Savannah and Mobile and New Orleans, unite with Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Chicago, in laying their immortelles on the tomb of the dead President. Today there is a “solid South” not in the low and unfriendly sense in which demagogues use the phrase, but in the nobler sense of a South consolidated by a common sorrow; and one with you in the determination to advance the prosperity, the happiness and the glory of the Union, and that, too, without the surrender of one just political principle honestly held by them. This is the day for the inauguration of a new era of harmony and true unity. The great calamity will thus be overruled to the good of the whole land.

“The providence of God sometimes wears a frowning aspect as it approaches, and men’s hearts grow faint with foreboding; but as the providence, which looked like a demon of darkness drew near, is passing away, it turns and looks back upon us with a face sweet and bright as the face of an angel of God. So now the angel of death seems to menace the land over which he is casting his dark shadow, but lo! As we look we see him transfigured. It is the angel of love, dropping peace and goodwill upon the world.”

We can tell from this oration that Moses Drury Hoge’s adamant and fiery feelings from the Civil War had mellowed and there came a kind of peace to Moses.

Moses Drury Hoge’s trek through this world, while already long, was not yet done. In 1884 he went abroad with his oldest son, who had been pursuing his professional studies for two years in Berlin. He also visited England and went to Copenhagen. He gave sermons and orations in almost every foreign city he visited.

 As further time passed, Moses became more and more at home with the change and evolution of his country after the Civil War. One could say he was almost becoming cheery.

In 1888, he again went abroad and attended the London Council of the Presbyterian Alliance. On July 11th of the same year, Moses wrote about a lucky circumstance that occurred while in London:

“It is like telling one’s dream, but it is a waking reality that I am the sole occupant of one the most elegant houses in the West End of London, on one of the most beautiful squares. It happened in this way. For ten days I was at the De Kayser Royal Hotel hard by Blackfriers Bridge; but while I was taking “mine ease in mine own inn,” one of London’s pastors told me a wealthy lady, a member of the church had gone to Scotland to be absent all summer, but had expressed the earnest wish that her’ house be occupied by members of the Alliance during its sessions, and he invited me and another delegate from the South to accept the proffered hospitality of his parishioner… my fellow member had to decline, but, I accepted it and…I found the kind pastor there to receive me and put me in the good care of the good housekeeper.”

So Moses Drury Hoge’s later life had its pleasant surprises.

A grainy picture of Moses Drury Hoge in later life

A grainy picture of Moses Drury Hoge in later life

He continued throughout his life to preach all over the world and all over this country. At times he said things that were committed no time and true for all time. Here something that sounds more as if it came from Confucius, not a Southern Presbyterian minister:

“A nation is but congeries of families, and what the family is, the nation will be.”

He spent 3 summers preaching in Baltimore in the steaming heat of that city. And his letters about that time, not only shows how truly busy he was in old age, but also that he possessed an active sense of humor:

“I was never more thoroughly well than I am this autumn,” he wrote, “although I worked steadily through the entire summer without a day’s rest. It was the hottest summer, too, known for many years.

“I had to go to Bridgeton, NJ on the 20th of July to deliver a centennial oration. It was a day of the most intense heat, so statisticians assure us, for twenty-one years. I spoke in a Grove to two or three thousand people in the afternoon the mercury marking one hundred and one degrees, and made my oration at night in the the church, but I do not know what record the thermometer made of the temperature. It exceeded anything I ever experienced, and when I returned to my room at the hotel, I sat most of the night in the window, sucking lemons and drinking ice-water. I passed the ordeal, however, so well that I converted to the theory of evolution from the lower animals, and think that one of my great ancestors was a salamander.”

As evidenced by the quotes above, Moses was busy and active all his life and, as time passed, his beliefs further moderated and changed. Perhaps, he came to think of the Civil War as the will of God. Perhaps, he came to think of the great and bloody Southern effort to secede from the Union as meant to fail. Perhaps, he came to think of this Great War as the glue which would forever make the American Union strong and immutable to further change. Of course, we all know nothing is immutable to change.

When I got the idea to write something about my great, great, great, great grandfather, Moses Drury Hoge, what intrigued me was here was a man of God, on the side of the South, who preached to Jefferson Davis, to Robert E. Lee, to Stonewall Jackson, to tens of thousands of Confederate troops, to the Southern people. I thought in the beginning it must have been a difficult moral position to be in…to be preaching for freedom in a land based upon slavery.

At the time, I had no real idea of who my relative really was. As I started to do research and discovered that there was an enormous amount of written information about him, I began to be amazed, surprised and then impressed, not only by what words were written about him, but also by his own words, which were so extensively quoted and which I have so liberally re-quoted.

As I read more and more of what Moses said and did, I came to understand that he was much more than the man I thought he was. One thing was fairly clear early on, as read more and more of his letters: Moses was an incredibly eloquent writer and I presume, an incredibly powerful orator. Obvious testament to this was the very breath and scope of his vocabulary. Yes, it was Biblically based, but it also was Classically based. I can only think he must have been far better read man than myself or most people today.

When I came to the time of the Civil War and Moses Drury Hoge’s descriptions of that event, I came to see it for a what was. A searing event that forever changed America and changed Moses. His descriptions of the battlefield, of going through a Confederate hospital, of walking home from the battlefield were detailed, harrowing and rang with sad and horrifying truth. I know many true and forceful things have been written about the Civil War and that there is an enormous amount of material on that conflict. But somehow, when I read the words of Moses Drury Hoge, that war became more near, more terrifying and more sad in my mind.

I think Moses was a truly great man. At the same time, I think he must have been a man conflicted on the inside, surely and clearly knowing that when he preached individual states freedom for the South, it could not continue as long as the South was the home of slavery. So at bottom, inside, Moses was conflicted. This does not show up in his outward words, but it must have been true in his inner self.

I would like to quote the end of Moses Drury Hoge’s oration on Stonewall Jackson:

“In the story of empires of the earth some crisis often occurs which develops the genius of the era, and impresses an imperishable stamp on the character of the people. Such a crisis was the Revolution of 1776, when thirteen thin-settled and widely-separated colonies dared offer the gage of battle to the greatest military and naval power on the globe…

“After innumerable reverses, and incredible sufferings and sacrifices, our father came forth from the ordeal victorious…

“But this day we inaugurate a new era…We come to honor the memory of one who was the impersonation of the Confederate cause…And at last it is Jackson’s clear, ringing tone to which we listen:

‘What is life without honor. Degradation is worse than death. We must think of the living of who are to come after us, and see that by God’s blessing we transmit to them the freedom we have enjoyed.’

“Heaven hear the prayer of our dead, immortal hero.”

So, Moses concluded his oration to Stonewall Jackson in 1875.

I cannot guess what the truth is about Moses, I cannot know how he really felt inside and I do not know how his beliefs finally evolved, but I would love to know and I think whatever he came to believe might have some lesson for us today.

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On Time and Travel

WeiHai in the rain Ocoter 2016

View from my hotel room of WeiHai in the rain October 2016

By Cecil Hoge

I started traveling at a young age. At least that is what I am told. I went to Chicago at the age of one and half to meet my rich aunt Nan. I do not remember many details of that flight, but I am told I was a real fire-cracker of a passenger, crying and screaming from time to time, trying to get out of the wicker basket that I was being carried in (seat belts were not the issue they are today), trying to peer out the window and look down at clouds and the landscape of America below. Yes, it was early flight experience and I do not remember much except the big turning propellers. That was over 70 years ago so I hope you forgive my lack of detail.

I did not travel very much in the next fourteen years…a few trips to Chicago to say hello to the relatives we had out there. I am not counting train rides to various schools, car rides to from the city to beaches and ocean, to Bellport and the Hamptons.

At 16 that changed.

That was when my father came back from a trip to Europe and announced he wanted to marry a German lady and told me he wanted me to meet my new German family. Three weeks later, I was on a Boeing 707 on my way to Berlin. The year was 1958 and the Boeing 707 had just been introduced for travel to Europe three weeks previously. So after my father had decided to remarry, I found myself in the cabin of one of the first 707 jets.

This is the jet plane I flew in.

This is the jet plane I flew in.

And that was a flight I do remember. For one thing, I remember being astonished by the fact that the plane had jet engines on the wings and that there were no propellers. The few earlier flights I had been on, all were in smaller planes and all with props. This was a time when airplane seats were comfortable to sit in. This was a time when pretty young stewardesses came over every few minutes to see if you were comfortable, if you needed a blanket or a snack or a full meal. And I had blast requesting multiple Coca Colas and potato chips and cookies and other good stuff.

What knocked me out about the flight was that they served full meals on the plane with real silverware. That plane ride was also establishing an historical speed record for commercial intercontinental flights because the flight only took nine and half hours – all previous flights to Europe took 14 hours or more and sometimes involved stop-offs in Iceland or Ireland, in which case the flight times were longer – more like going to Asia today. So this was a kind of break-through flight at that time.

The faster flight in the 707 and the sudden emersion into West Berlin culture was a shock to my 16 years old, jet-lagged body. I do not remember what going through customs was like, I just remember sticking close to my father as we were asked various questions. At the airport, we were met by, Fritzi, my new step-mother to be, Papilein and Mutti. Papilein and Mutti were slang for my step-mother’s father and mother.

Berlin was a tremendous mind blowing experience. Meeting my new stepmother to be, meeting her parents, and after we drove in from Tempelhof Airport, her sisters and her young brother was unbelievable. We spent two weeks in Berlin and every day we went different places and did different things.

In its heyday, this was the snazziest, the newest hotel and the tallest hotel in Berlin.

In its heyday, this was the snazziest, the newest hotel and the tallest hotel in Berlin.

I was seeing buildings and museums and restaurants and parks I had never seen. Berlin at that time was still a very barren city, despite the fact there were already a lot of gleaming new buildings. And we found ourselves staying in one particularly new gleaming building. It was a brand-spanking new Hilton Hotel. We were checked into two luxurious rooms. Yes, I had my own single room and this was just another wonder that was hard for me to understand. As I remember it, it was on the 8 or 9th floor. At night I could see the cars and buses and trucks bustling along on the Berlin city streets below with the city light bouncing off the roads below. It was an awesome sight, to use a present day expression.

On several occasions, I went through the Brandenbur Tor into East Germany. Once to listen to Bach Choir concert in some famous East German church, once to visit various Soviet museums where I learned about industrious Soviet women who developed better socket wrenches to improve production of various Soviet products. It was quite a contrast to West Berlin.

This was the Brandenburg Tor

This was the Brandenburg Tor

I have written more detail about this particular trip on this blog in a story called “A Fog Moves into Berlin and I Gain a Stepmother”. So to get more details on my first big trip to Europe and how my father came to marry my stepmother, just scroll down to that story. It is still on this blog.

For the next 8 years I finished Catholic prep school and eventually college, but I did not travel much, except for a few train rides and motorcycle rides back and forth from prep school and college. After emerging from college and a few false starts on the road to life, I entered my father’s business, married my wife, had a child and started to travel on a more regular basis. At first it was just trade shows for our fishing lures and inflatable boats, then it was to visit customers around the country. After a few years, it was to visit suppliers for our fishing lures and inflatable boats in Europe.

I did not mean to become a traveler, although I always thought it was a very cool thing to do. It was just that it became a kind to routine to attend certain trade shows around the states, to visit certain customers around the country and to visit certain suppliers, first in Europe and eventually in Asia. Well, if you travel for 60 years, the effect becomes cumulative and perennial.

I will try to give you an example of a typical year.

In January, I might go to the boat shows in New York or Chicago. In February, I might cruise down to the Miami Boat Show. In March or April, I might be at visiting some fishing lure or inflatable boat customers. In May, I would head to the grand city of Sidney, Nebraska to visit Cabela’s and then come back by way of Springfield, Missouri to visit BassPro’s headquarters. In June, I would head out to visit my big wholesaler fishing lure customer in Chicago and then cruise over to Seattle to visit Costco or a local inflatable boat dealer. And often in June, I would head over to a European Fishing Tackle Show which could be in Paris or Amsterdam or Copenhagen or Milan. In July, you could depend on me
being at the American Fishing Tackle Show, presently called Icast, in St. Louis or Kansas City or Las Vegas or Miami or most recently, Orlando. In August, I would be at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City. In September or October or November, no doubt, I would being visiting suppliers, first in Italy and France and in the last 25 years in Asia, in Korea and China.

In some years, I would go two or three times to Europe or Asia, but most years, just once. But the trips to suppliers were always long because we always visited four or more suppliers in Europe or Asia. And if you were trying to visit four or five suppliers, you would have to take 1, 2 or 3 days with each and then were weekends, which meant that your Sundays and sometimes, your Saturdays, were free. Anyway, add it all up and the supplier trips were usually always 3 or 4 weeks, depending on which countries I going to and how long I had to spend in each place. These days I try to keep my trips to three weeks, but even that is very difficult.

Now I have been traveling like this for forty years, so that amount of travel really does add up. I have pretty much visited every major city in the U.S. once or more. I have visited France and Italy each about 20 to 25 times – I have lost count. I have been visiting China once or twice year since 1993 and Korea once or twice a year since 1997. Then there is the odd country here and there – Japan twice, Taiwan twice, Costa Rica twice, Germany four or five times, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway one or two times. So in the end I think it is true to say that I have traveled pretty far and pretty wide.

I have said in other places in this blog that is is very hard for travelers to explain their travels to non-travelers. It is my theory that the world is divided between travelers and non-travelers and while it is easy enough to tell someone about a trip, it is almost impossible for a non-traveler to understand what your trip is actually like. This is because, if you have not experienced travel, it is hard for non-travelers to relate to the stories of a traveler.

With that said, I would like to relate what a recent trip to Asia was like. I know it is an impossible to really capture the experiences I had, but I will try to explain just one trip.

This is a new city in Korea where we tested boats. Five years ago it existed only as an architech's scale model. Today there are 50,000 people living here.

This is a new city in Korea where we tested boats. Five years ago it existed only as an architect’s scale model. Today there are 50,000 people living here.

It happens that I am recently back from a trip to Korea and China. Now this trip is particularly short, just nine days, so it might be easier. In the last two years, I have cut back my trips because my wife has had some back and knee issues and I wanted to stay nearby. So this particular trip was less than half the normal trip to Aisia.

Any trip these days starts with an airplane ride. To get to the airport, JFK in this case, we chose to take a limo. So I got picked up by a nice driver some Central American country (Honduras, if I remember) named Julio from my house in Setauket and then with one heavy bag in the trunk and my business bag inside, we head off to pick Ryan Healey, a guy who works with us and handles our inventory management. That means he buys boats and accessories for our inflatable boat business.

We stop in St. James, pick up Ryan and head out to JFK. It is a trip that lasts a little over an hour. After some discussion with the driver about corruption in South America and the upcoming presidential election – Julio immigrated to the States about 30 years ago, thinks America is the greatest country in world and is worried about corruption in Central America, turmoil in the Middle East and the election in the States.

The ride goes quickly and Ryan and I enjoy Julio’s thoughts on the state of the world. Julio seems to be a very intelligent guy very up to date on world events. He is particularly worried that Iran, with Russia’s help, will takeover over the oil in the Middle East.

“What are we going to do without that oil?” He asks.

I try to console him by saying we are doing a lot more fracking these days (a practice I am not thrilled about) and now have quite a bit of oil. We get out of the car, start dragging our heavy bags into the terminal, leaving Julio to ponder how he might drive back and forth from Kennedy if the Iranians and Russians take all that Middle Eastern oil.

For the last 20 years or so we discovered that we can trade American Express points (of which we have a lot) for business class flights all over the world. This makes travel a whole lot more comfortable. Accordingly, we cruise up to the Korean Air business counter, check our bags, which conveniently are not that heavy ( just under 23 kilos/50 lbs.). That is not important for business class because they will accept pretty much any bag, no matter the weight, but it will be important later on our other flights inside Korea and China, as will be explained later.

Now business class is nice in many ways. It is not quite as comfortable as first class and nowhere near the comfort of flying  your own jet where you have full power to outfit the plane as you wish and where you employ people to wait on you hand and foot. But we are not billionaires. That said, business class is pretty damn comfortable. First of all, check in is a lot easier.

The line for economy is 15 to 20 times longer than business class. So, with business class, you can usually cruise through in less than 5 or 10 minutes. But after that, there is security and security is completely democratic these days. There were times in the more pleasant past, when there was a special lane for business class or first passengers, allowing them to cruise through security far faster, but these days we are all into in it together – at least in JFK on the October 15th, Sunday noon hour, 2016.

So getting through security involves winding around on a line that takes about 20 minutes (the line is relatively light on this Sunday), taking off your shoes, removing everything from your pockets and getting radiated or scanned by some infrared technology that helps detect bombs and weapons by perhaps imparting more radiation or something else which you may not need. No matter, while not without its irritations, it seems better to get scanned or to get a vertical MRI, than have people shoot you or place bombs on your plane.

Once through security, you then have to make your way to customs so they can can check that you have the proper papers (valid passport, valid visa for China) to legally leave the country. That takes another 10 minutes or so, and then, finally you are released to area where duty free shops, restaurants, bars and business class lounges are all available.

Now, I can say the process of getting through an airport was infinitely easier and more pleasant 20 or 30 years ago. 30 years ago, there literally was almost no security. Yes, you had to present your passport and ticket at the ticket counter and check your bag. And then all you had to do, was go through customs. There was literally no actual security. So the whole process took far less time.

Anyway, we head to the business class lounge to soak up some coffee and itty bitty sandwiches before getting on the plane. After and hour or so, the computer screen showing the flights that are boarding starts to start blinking for our flight. We head down to the terminal gate, get in on the business class line, which though about a tenth of the length of the economy line, still has a good 50 or 60 people waiting to board. The plane we are going to fly today is an Airbus 380, quite literally the biggest commercial airplane in the world.

In due time we file onto the plane and are lead to our seats in business class. Now Korean Air Business Class is different from some other airlines, like Delta. In Delta, for example, you have this magnificent angled bed, but you are absolutely separated from the passenger seated next you. Korean Air is more democratic having business class seats where the passengers can actually talk to one another. I like the Democratic setup because sometimes you find yourself seated next someone interesting.

And in this particular seat it turned out that there was a nice young lady next to me who is a shoe designer for Tory Burch. After the flight takes off we strike up a conversation. This lady is on her way to Hong Kong where she and another designer will be picked up and whisked into the city of Dongguan.

A couple of things about the city of Dongguan…it is a city that I regularly visit. When I first started going to Dongguan it was extremely seedy and depressing looking and there was only one hotel near the factory we were visiting that seemed reasonably safe, that was a 5 star hotel called The Silverland. In 20 short years everything changed. New highways were built in every direction coming in and going out of the city. Extremely well manicured gardens began to appear along each highway. New hotels and giant shopping malls were erected. Pretty soon the city began to have many beautiful sections. In that period, The Silverland became outdated and surrounded by 4 or 5 bigger and more glamorous 5 star hotels. This all took place in the space of 20 years.

Meanwhile, on the 380 Airbus, I had a very nice conversation with the young shoe designer for Tory Burch. It turned out that she had previously been traveling to and working in Italy, Spain and Brazil. So the young lady has gotten around.  As things would have it, Tory Burch, the famous company she designs for, decided to move its shoe manufacturing and shoe design facilities first from Italy to Spain, then to Brazil and then to China. Such is the state of modern out-sourcing these days. So this meant that first this lady was going back and forth every 30 days to Italy, then every 30 days to Spain, and she then every 30 days to Brazil.

And now this young lady found herself on the way to Dongguan, via Hong Kong. I did not envy the lady’s ride, having made the same leg several times. The flight today is thirteen and half hours from JFK to Seoul. After that, the young lady must move to the transit lounge at Incheon Airport, and after a two hour layover, she would have to get on a flight to Hong Kong. Of course, flights every 30 days back and forth to Italy and Brazil are no picnic either, so I am guessing this young lady is up to the trials she has to face. Travel requires stamina and it is most definitely a younger person’s game.

The young lady was in her own words, “Living the life.”

In her case, that meant she was living in Brooklyn with her artist husband and they were having a blast. Restaurants, bars, museums, theaters, movies, concerts, designer parties, artist parties. The future was wide open and the city was theirs.

Did she plan to have kids, I asked. Not just yet, she said. She wanted to get a few more years under her belt and then she and her husband would raise the nuclear family.

Anyway, we had a nice conversation. After lunch on the plane, we decided to go back to the lounge area and sit around and chat. My associate, Ryan came in and joined and so did the other designer from Tory Burch, who turned out to be a nice British lady in her forties. There we talked about travel, about changes in China, about Italy, Brazil, China, about shoes, about design, about travel, about the difficulty of explaining travel to people who did not travel.

It was a fun conversation and soon enough we ambled back to our seats, got some sleep and before you realized it, we were landing.

Benjamin Franklin, one of our country’s founders, scientist, printer, businessman, inventor, diplomat and man about town said something about travel that I always thought was quite true. And that was, when you travel, you ended up doing about twelve times more things. It was literally like living 12 years in one. He regarded travel as a kind of extension on life because you met so many people, did so many more things, dropped in on places that you never would otherwise have gone, did things you never otherwise would have done, talked to people you never would have spoken to, learned things you never would have learned.

I think this is still quite true. Today travel starts the moment you leave your home. Almost immediately you are talking to new people, considering new ideas. This happens in a limousine to the airport, in an airplane to a country. You meet people, you start interacting with them and your journey begins.

Now, you may say that the real journey only begins when you get to the country or place you are traveling to, but I think it starts before. I think it starts the moment you begin your journey.

Anyway, about fourteen hours after getting on the plane, I said goodbye to the girl designing shoes and made my way, with Ryan through customs, then down to baggage claim and then out the door into the terminal arrivals area. Sure enough, there was Chris Jung, our factory contact, there to greet us, there to grab my bag and ask if the flight had been satisfactory. Chris is the young Korean guy who manages our account and tries to keep up with our various requests to change products, to make new products, to deliver faster, to improve quality control, and in this case, to drive us to our hotel.

Chris leads us to the P. Diddy van. At least that is what we call it. I am pretty sure Sean John Combs never owned this particular van, but from the look of it, you could imagine P. Diddy and a group of his buddies piling into, drinking Courvoisier and heading out to the club. The van is a fine sight inside, with tinted windows and window blinds to pull down just in case someone was trying to peer in, a righteous stereo, GPS, Internet and a solid selection of action movies, with a movie screen just above the mirror.

Chris turns on the local GI station which seems to want to play an eclectic combination of rap, Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, Ed Sheeron, Eminem, Bruno Mars, classic country and pop. Ryan and I feel right at home as we peel out of Incheon Airport and head for downtown Incheon. The idea that Incheon Airport might be next to Incheon City is a quaint one since it is about a 40 minute ride over spanking new expressways and over under passes before we make our way into the actual city of Incheon, but all things considered, after a 14 hour flight, the P. Diddy ride is painless and pretty soon we are pulling up to our hotel.

Just before we arrive, Chris asks the all important question, have we had dinner?

This is a picture of downtown Incheon, near where we ate

This is a picture of downtown Incheon, near where we ate

We reply no, since we do not count the dinner we had 12 hours ago on the plane, not to mention, the lunch and breakfast that came 8 hours and 4 hours ago. Riding a plane builds up your hunger. I am convinced of that.

So Chris Jung suggests that we go around the corner to a local Korean barbecue. First Ryan and I check into the hotel, present our passports, bring our bags to our rooms, take a few minutes to wash up, and then head down to the lobby. We walk across the street and about half a block away and within a few minutes we are enjoying Korean barbecue.

For those of you who don’t know, Korean barbecue is where you sit at a table with a charcoal or propane burner in the center of the table. Then a Korean lady brings about 15 little plates of different vegetables, spices, fish and meats. An absolute must among these dishes is Kimchi, which is a kind of sauerkraut that comes in 50 of so varieties. The simplest form of this a kind of cabbage that has been left to marinate in some kind of sauce. It sounds gross, but it is actually kind of addictive. It is a staple of the Korean diet.

As soon as they bring these dishes, you can dig in with stainless steel chopsticks and a stainless spoon. The stainless steel chopsticks are harder than wooden chopsticks, since they tend to be slippery. A couple of points about the 15 different little plates. It is not always clear which of these dishes are meant to eaten as food and which are meant to be spices for other dishes. Fortunately, Chris is there to help point us in the right direction giving a giggle whenever we might try to take a bite out some spice or sauce meant to be combined with something else.

Almost immediately the nice Korean lady brings tea, water and fires up the burner and the middle of the table. Then other plates of raw meats arrive, chicken, steak, pork and shrimp. All of this is delicious and within minutes we are plowing through a wide variety of Korean vegetables, meats and fish.

Ryan and I are having a good time demolishing all the 50 or so little dishes when my brother John suddenly arrives along with Greg and May May.

Now John’s travel story is different than ours. He is about two thirds through a trip around the world. John started about 10 days before us, first going to Berlin, then to a small town in East Germany, then back to Berlin, then on to Istanbul, and two days earlier on to Korea via Abu Dhabi. In Korea, John met with our fishing lure customer (we sell things in foreign countries as well as buy things) one day before we arrived. And then today, before we arrived in Korea, John drove with our Korean lure customer Greg and his associate, May May Kim, down to the middle of Korea to go fishing with some of our Panther Martin lures to see if they work.

John let’s us know it has been a successful fish and they have caught a number of Korean fish. The fish are apparently a small version of trout. Greg, May May and John are all pleased with the day’s fishing. Chris Jung is little bit confused wondering where John and these other Koreans have come from. After a little discussion, some short introductions, everybody gets the jist who everybody else is. Greg takes this opportunity to order some barbecue and we settle in for a kind of second dinner, which in Ryan’s and our case, might be called a fourth dinner since we have been eating nonstop our way from JFK to Incheon.

Anyway, It is a jovial fest. Greg explains what he does – primarily selling cosmetics and clothing into China. Greg has a special love of fishing and has decided that in the future fishing will become popular in China and Korea, even if his present is rooted in selling Chinese girls Korean clothes and cosmetics. It seems that young Chinese ladies are attracted to the hot young Korean ladies living and looking the life on Korean soaps. It is a strange world sometimes, hard to figure.

We finish dinner, Greg and Chris share the tab, and then we walk across the street to our new hotel and say goodbye to our hosts. A big thing with travel is hooking up the various electronics that you inevitably bring. Fortunately, in my room there are two good plugs, conveniently fitted with Western style plug fittings for 110 volts, even if the outgoing electric is 220 volts. Plugs and volts used to be a big deal on travel, but these days it is less of a hassle. I do carry spare converter plugs for different situations, but it seems that on my stay in Korea these will be unnecessary. I do have a double hook up that allows me to charge my cell and iPad at the same time. The second plug I use for charging my Jawbone speaker and iPod alternatively.

I believe in bringing music wherever I go because local Korean TV can be a little difficult and because I get bored with CNN or BBC English language news. Music allows a different mindset, which can be very helpful when making your way in a different country.

Now you would think that I would be a little tired after 14 hour flight and a long Korean dinner and you would be right, but I believe in ignoring time zones and staying up late when you arrive so when you do go to sleep, you really sleep. My brother John is a little tuckered by the Korean fishing and perhaps the ten previous days of travel from the other side of the world, so says he is going to crash. Ryan and I agree to meet downstairs to head out for a walk and a chat at one the local sit down cafes.

So after setting up my electronic paraphernalia, hanging up some clothes in my new closet which is large enough for about 4 hangars and washing my face quickly, I head down to the lobby and stroll outside where Ryan is waiting for a walk and sit-down chat. Now the weather in Korea on this particular trip is quite warm. I would guess the temperature to be in the low seventies or high sixties. So it was quite pleasant to go for an evening stroll.

Within a block of this hotel, The Hotel Koryo, are several brightly lit streets of bars, restaurants and cafes. Ryan and I settle down in one of the outdoor cafes and chat up our experiences on the trip so far, discuss a little of what we will be doing the next day. We are to be picked up at the hotel at 9:30 am and by this time it still relatively early, being around 10:30 pm Korean time. After about 45 minutes of chitchat, we head back to the hotel and our respective rooms. Both of us have been up for about 30 hours straight so it really is time for some sleep.

The next morning, I get up, do a few exercises in my room – I bring a kind of pocket gym with me – a handgrip, a jump rope, elastic arm and leg bands and, most importantly, a hackysack. After my exercises, I head downstairs to the second floor where they serve complimentary breakfast. It is a kind buffet style setup, with sections for American style food, European style food, Korean and Chinese food. A nice touch is that they have guy standing by wearing a nice white chef’s hat ready to make eggs on demand.

I like to stick with an American breakfast because after that I know that will be the last thing that I eat that is remotely American for the rest of the day. Now I do cheat a little bit and throw on some Kimchi and noodles on my plate, but mostly it is eggs over medium, croissants and jelly. This system seems to work for me and provides, I think, a good base for the many varieties of Korean fare that will come later.

When we get down to the lobby and walk out the door, there is the P. Diddy van with Chris waiting to power our chariot on to the new offices. Inside, Bruno Mars is singing about uptown funk. Today we are visiting Woosung, our Korean boat inflatable supplier. We wend our way through Incheon traffic. It is a city of 3 million people, not nearly as crowded as Seoul, which is just 20 miles away and can take an easy 3 hours to get across. That said, traffic in Incheon is crowded and slow, even by New York standards. After about ten minutes and a mile or so, we pull up to the new and impressive offices of our supplier.

When we first began buying inflatables from Woosung, they were quite a small manufacturer with one office and factory in a space of about 30,000 square feet. Like many Korean companies in the last 20 years, they grew rapidly, changed their original factory for another larger factory and then built on to their new factory building, which was originally about 50,000 square feet and then became 75,000 square feet of offices and factories.

Today, they now have a new building for their offices and are still using the 75,000 square feet for manufacturing. The office building is brand new and has six floors and a whole slew of young Koreans working as managers and designers. If you had visited their original space and then saw their new spaces you would be impressed and startled by the many changes. But that does not tell the whole story since Woosung also has two additional factories in China and one in Vietnam. This is a company that has probably increased it sales 30 times since we started visiting it in 1997.

To get in the building there is a special security card needed. This is helpfully supplied by Chris. Once inside the glass enclosed lobby, there is a display of various inflatable boat models, some of which are ours, that they have made for various customers. To left of the entrance is a mini Mistral Store – this is the French brand that they have licensed to sell clothing, sunglasses and other kinds of sporting equipment under in Korea. As we approach the elevator there is a digital screen a over the elevator scrolling the following message:

“Welcome, honored guests, Cecil Hoge, John Hoge and Ryan Healey.”

It is nice to be recognized as you come in the door.

We take the elevator to the fourth floor. We come out and take an immediate right to say hello to their Korean sales team that has assembled to greet us. This includes Walter Kim (our account manager leader), Larry Lim (head of production), his son Mike, now working in sales, Jenny Park, Kevin Kim, Chris Jung and about six other sales gals and guys. They are all young, thin and you might notice that they have all American fist names and a limited number of Korean last names. That is pretty much the case for the whole country. The American first names are strictly for sales purposes – the theory being if an English speaking person can pronounce your first name he might buy more and Because English is pretty much the official business language in Asia. Regarding last names, Kim, Lim, Park & Lee seem to account for about 80% of the last names in Korea.

After saying hello, shaking hands and half- bowing to the sales team, we about face and head for the conference room, which is located in the opposite direction, just to the right of a room ominously labeled, The War Room. We never got into the War Room so I am not quite sure what goes on there. I imagine, 50 or 60 grim-faced Koreans gathered in the room with Haji Lee, the owner. As soon as Haji arrives, he harangues them for an hour or so on some sales imperative of the day.

In any case, we case go off the big conference room which can sit 20 or so people and place our bags on one side. Outside is a nice view of the city of Incheon. Chris then tells us it is time to go and meet Haji, so we dutifully file out of the conference room, get into the elevator and head up to the fifth floor. There we take a right turn, where we see a sign saying “Oldest and Best Customer”. Below is our company name: Sea Eagle Boats, Inc. with a picture of John and myself.

We are one Woosung’s oldest customers, that part is correct, having first visited their far smaller offices and factory in 1997, during their great currency collapse. In the early years of doing business with them, we did become their best overall customer. That is no longer true. Today, we have been surpassed by many new customers. Woosung manufactures inflatable boats, kayaks and standup paddleboards for a wide variety of customers. Hobie Cat, Naisch, Starboard, NRS, are just a few of their staunch customers. While we are still a pretty good customer, we are nowhere near their best customer. Anyway, it is nice to be honored with a sign.

In the room beyond is Haji Lee’s office. It has a big, wide desk, piled high with papers and documents and a mini conference table also and a great view of city outside. Haji is sitting at his desk, looks up, says, “oh,” or something like it in Korean, jumps up and comes over to shake hands and greet. Haji is vigorous and energetic man in everything he does and he almost seems to approach you on the run.

We shake hands, chit-chat a little on our respective flights, our lack of or presence of jetlag, some discussion on where Ryan and I came from and a little discussion of where John came from. After that is done, we sit down in the very comfy chairs in Haji’s mini conference room. Actually, I call that the quality face time table. Asians seems to like to sit down, ask a few questions, look at each other for about 20 minutes, trying, I guess, to discern some inner meaning, and then after 20 minutes of some tea and mostly quiet saying little or nothing, suddenly get up and move back down to the big conference room on the floor below. It seems to be an important thing to do.

Haji tells us, as usual, that he has a few other things to do before joining us in the conference room. Judging from the stack of catalogs, documents and magazines, that could be a few minutes or several hours. Anyway, we head back down to the conference room. There we are joined by Larry Lim, Walter Kim and Chris Jung.

I do not know how other people conduct their foreign meetings, but in our case, we write up an agenda of points to be discussed and send it to them a couple of weeks before we arrive. After we make up our agenda, Woosung then makes up their agenda, which is half in English and half in Korean. It is not identical to ours, but it does tend to follow our original plan with a little Korean twist and turn here and there.

Basically, in the beginning we have general review of how the year went for us, how it went for them. Then we move on to general hopes and goals. In this part, Woosung usually shows us some videos on new products that they working on, some of which may be related to what we we do and some of which may have nothing to do with what we do. Then we go over problem issues. These can be quality problems, defects issues, payment issues, unresolved issues. Then we review new prototypes, discuss new products and here what suggestions Woosung wishes to make. Usually, we set also aside a day or half a day for boat testing of new models. Last of all, we discuss pricing.

That is the schedule of our meetings in one paragraph, but the reality of our meetings is that it takes 3 full and long days to go over all the various points.

Before beginning, I want to await for the arrival of Haji Lee. To bide our time, an young Korean lady comes in bringing green tea or coffee. When in Asia, I stick with a steady intake of tea, so I am happy to go with the green tea. John and Ryan stick with Western culture and go with the coffee. Shortly after starting to sip our tea and coffee, Haji comes charging in.

I begin by asking what their take on the year is. Haji says it has not been the best. The Standup Paddle Board business, which had enjoyed tremendous growth, now has slowed down. Transom boat business – inflatable boats taking 10 to 40 hp engines – is basically dead. His Mistral brand business, which he started last year, is now up to 12 shops around Korea, is growing, but not growing as fast as anticipated. Inflatable kayaks have been a bright spot (this is good since that is the main business we are in). They have hopes for a new business – inflatable rescue structures – but that business has not yet started. The cow mattress business has been steady, but not growing.

Before going further, I must tell you about Haji’s cow mattress business. It is a little out of the ordinary and perhaps not what you think about when considering inflatable boats. It seems some years ago a Canadian company came to Haji with a strange idea. They wanted to make cow beds for cows. After some interrogation, Haji found out that a comfortable cow is a happy cow and a happy cow gives more milk. At the time, the Canadian company was making cow beds using a fabric bladder with polyethylene foam inside. This seemed to work OK, except after a short time, the cow, weighing up to 3,000 lbs. and having relatively hard hooves, would puncture the cow mattress cover and shortly thereafter the foam would get ground to powder. Anyway, the Canadian company thought maybe inflatable boat material was stronger and better than the truck tarp material they were using for the foam covers.

Haji began to make some mattress covers to hold the foam material. The inflatable boat material did last longer, but the foam did not. This definitely did work better, but the fabric would still burst after one or two years and the foam basically was crushed to dust with two months. That meant they had to replace the inner foam section every two or three months. You might think this was unacceptable to the Canadian cow bed company, but in actual fact they were happy since they were getting longer life than out of the previous products.

Now let me explain something here that might surprise you. The cow mattress business is quite large. I certainly was surprised. A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to go out to dinner with Haji, a number of his employees and two of the owners of Canadian cow mattress company. That evening the two Canadian owners gave me a little history on their company and the cow mattress business in general. For me, it was a whole new world.

Apparently, there is a great need to keep cows comfortable. This is because, as mentioned before, comfortable cows produce more milk. In the the history of cows and milk and how to manage that, at first there was mud and straw. This was the prevailing system for the last couple of thousand years, but it was messy and neither the cows nor the farmers liked the mud and straw. The cows because it was muddy and messy and cold and uncomfortable. The farmers because it was muddy and messy and hard to keep clean.

So in the late 20 century, some farmers got the bright idea put concrete and straw down where before there was only mud and straw. This was definitely easier to keep clean for the farmers, but the cows did not like it because, let’s face it, concrete, even with some straw on it, is not very comfortable. Along the way, it was noticed by the farmers that the cows seemed more agitated when sleeping on concrete and, more importantly for the farmer, they gave less milk.

This got the farmers to thinking. Maybe there was a way to make cows more comfortable and stalls easier to clean. So they consulted some experts who suggested using foam cushions. This was about the time the two Canadian guys began to get interested in the cow bed industry. They had been supplying farmers with needed things for farming such as straw for beds, hay for food, milk pales and other cow-milking equipment. It seemed natural for the two Canadians to start providing foam mattresses.

Now you would think that foam mattresses would be pretty durable and you would be right…for humans. However, as mentioned, cows weigh 1,500 to 3,000 lbs. and they have hooves. When they go to their stall, after grazing in the field, they are not real careful how they step on the foam mattresses under them. Two things happened from this usage. The cows’ hooves would break through the cover around the foam mattresses. The second thing that happened is that the cows hooves crushed the foam to dust wherever they stepped on the foam. This process of breaking through the cover and crushing the foam, did not occur instantly, but within two or three months and foam mattress cover would look like it had been shot through with holes and the foam inside would look like it had been ground into fine particulate matter.

Not helping this problem was the fact that the cows came to like to munch on the exposed foam. This made many cows sick and caused some to die. The two Canadian gentlemen were discouraged by this and decided to seek another solution. Perhaps, they could make inflatable air beds for the cows. This is when they suggested this improvement to Haji. Haji, always liking a new and different challenge, and also liking the idea of making the whole product where he could charge more, started making inflatable air beds for cows.

The inflatable air beds did do better than the foam mattresses, but the still got destroyed by the cows after two or three months. It seems that cow hooves and air beds do not get along. Punctures would occur and then the mattresses would go flat. Now the two Canadian guys were still able to sell this product, because while they lasted, the air mattresses were far more comfortable for the cows and that meant they produced 40% more milk. That was a good deal for the farmers. It seemed that farmers, once they got sold on cow comfort and more milk, were willing to pay for air mattresses even if they only lasted 3 months or so.

The business itself began to flourish. At first the two Canadian were selling a few hundred mattresses, then a few thousand mattresses. Pretty soon, they were selling over 5,000 air mattresses for cow beds a year. And this was a pretty good business for Haji and the two Canadian guys. Haji was was selling the cow beds for over $200 each and the Canadians were selling the cow beds to farmers for over $500. In other words, in pretty short order Haji was selling over $1,000,000 of cow beds a year and the two Canadians were selling over $2,500,000 a year. It was becoming a business.

Still, there was a problem of durability. Farmers were getting tired of buying replacement air beds four times a year. This is when a new innovation came along. The two Canadians figured that if they used gel, they might get longer life from their cow beds. And they were right. The inflatable cow beds, now filled with gel rather than air, did last longer, about a year.

On the basis of this innovation, the cow bed business grew rapidly. Soon Haji was selling 10,000 cow beds a year. He did not fill these with gel. Rather he sent them empty to Canada and the Canadians provided the gel. Everybody was happy for a while. Haji and Canadians sold more cow beds than ever, the Cows were more comfortable and gave 40% more milk and the farmers were happy because they bought cow beds less often, they got more milk which they sold for more money. It was a win, win.

But progress never stops. About this time, Haji started working with drop stitch material and starting making Standup Paddleboards with this new inflatable innovation. Drop stitch material is two layers of material with millions of woven threads going back and forth between the two layers of fabric. This allows you to make rectangular shapes because the threads hold the two layers of fabric at a specific width. This material, the two Canadians realized, was perfect for making cow beds. For one thing, you could add layers of fabric top and bottom making the material far stronger. For another, you could have quite high pressures and a flat cleanable surface. This is important when farmers who have to clean up cows after they have done their business. That is because cows do not pay that much attention to where they do their business and that often meant that cow beds became pretty dirty.

Again, the new drop stitch material, with its heavier layers of material and with air inside instead of gel solved a lot of problems and it also lasted longer. It was easier to ship, easier to setup and easier to clean. Even so, drop stitch cow beds did not last forever, but now they were getting two or three years of use. And as the technology improved, so did the sales. Sales were now over 20,000 cow beds a year. So that is a brief history of one the product Haji was producing.

So at this meeting Haji let’s know that the cow bed business is still good and he is hoping to sell another 20,000 cow beds in 2016.

Haji then explained some of the new businesses he is trying to enter. One is a unique rescue product that you drop from an airplane or helicopter and it automatically inflates providing an inflatable structure that 100 or 200 people can hang on to. This product is to be used in life or death situations, when a plane is crashing into the sea or when a ship is sinking. The safety device can be on board a ship or plane or it can be brought to the rescue site by a helicopter or plane or a boat. In any case, it can be deployed in minutes and it is large enough for 100 or 200 people to hang on to until somebody comes to rescue them.

Since this is new product, not yet on the market, I cannot really tell you more other than in the video we saw, it looked like it will really work. Haji and his company have spent two years testing and developing this product. They hope to start selling it in 2017.

Haji went on to tell us about some other new products – inflatable water bike (the bike was not inflatable, just the pontoons holding the bike), an electric moped that they are thinking to sell in Korea and some other products. We watch a video showing the water bike peddling along on water. It looked like it really worked and we immediately said we would have an interest in selling it when it was ready. Haji shows some literature on the electric bike. I am not quite clear why Haji wants to be in the electric bike business, since that seems pretty crowded and not directly related to water bikes, standup Paddleboards, inflatable kayaks and inflatable cow beds. But that is the way Haji is, he is always looking to get into something new and different.

We then went over how our sales have been. Down in Standup Paddleboards, up in kayaks, up in fishing boats, up in transom boats. We go over some of our hopes for the future…large sales of transom boats in India for rescue work (we have already sold over 100 boats to India for flood rescue work in 2016) and we are bidding on several new large contracts. In short, we think this can be a big new business for us. In summary, we mention that 2016 is our best year ever and that we will sell around 2o,000 inflatable boats, kayaks or SUPs in 2016.

By this time, we have already arrived at lunchtime in Korea, so we all evacuate the conference room and head upstairs to the sixth floor. That is where the new company cafeteria is located. There are 40 or 50 people eating there in a dining room off to the left. We head over to the executive section on the right which is a cordoned off table for about 20. Today, we are about 12. Haji has invited some wealthy friend of his to lunch with us and he tells us about some new relaxation device he is hopping to sell a million units. Apparently, this gentleman is very successful in the kitchen appliance business. At the moment, he seems more interested in talking up his new product.

We all try the device which kind of wraps around your neck and stomach. I can see it does provide some support, but it seems bulky and ungainly to me. Haji’s Korean friend enthusiastically explains how they plan to sell one million units, apparently, if I understand him correctly, in the next 6 months. He wonders whether we might interested in selling this in the States. We politely try to explain that it is a little outside of selling inflatable boats and fishing lures.

Anyway, we have a nice Korean meal, with different kinds of Kimchi, fresh fish, tofu, assorted vegetables, some fried eggs, some meats, a cup of rice, some delicious spicy soup and other things I am not quite clear on. Now my rule wherever I travel is to eat whatever is placed before me, so I plow through quite happily. It is all quite delicious and pretty healthy, I am guessing.

After lunch in the cafeteria, it is back down to the conference room. We are still in the introductory phase, not having discussed specific problems, new designs, new orders, shipping schedules, new order plans or a review of goods already ordered and on the sea somewhere. Today is Monday and it is mostly for introductory discussion and review of samples. Tomorrow, we are scheduled to test several prototypes on a nearby waterway.

So after sitting down in the conference room for more general chitchat, we head over to the actual factory, which is about a half a mile away. The traffic makes short distance another 10 minute journey. As we go into the factory, we slip on protective shoe covers that are required and are supposed eliminate or reduce any dirt coming into the factory floor. Putting these elastic foot covers on is not so easy, since you have to balance on one leg. I have developed a tried and true method for this by leaning on a nearby wall.

We start on the first floor where several prototypes are waiting our inspection. Today we are reviewing a fishing kayak, a racing Standup Paddleboard and a new kind of drop stitch transom boat. Since I am in the process of applying for a patent on the new kind of all drop stitch transom boat, I will not divulge too much information on that, other than to say that I am hoping it will be very light, easy to assemble, fast to row and motor. None of that is known when you make a prototype. Basically, the prototype process is a hit or miss proposition. You throw out your best ideas and they either work or they don’t.

I head over to the prototype of the drop stitch transom boat while my brother and Ryan head over to the racing SUP. Both look better than I anticipated. Again, that is something that is hard to know in advance. You make a drawing of something you want your supplier to make and it either comes out the way you think or it is close or it is way off the mark. Anyway, I am happy with the appearance of the new kind of transom boat. We are with Haji Lee, the owner, Larry Lim, the head of production, and Chris Jung, our contact for the Sea Eagle products that they make for us, and several workers and technicians in the factory.

I shake hands with the chubby Korean guy who always makes the first prototypes. He kind of bows. I bow back. I am thinking I must be a very frustrating guy for him because he has been making strange prototypes for us for about 10 or 15 years and most of the time, we end up only selecting just a few of those prototypes to be actual products. And worse, sometimes, I take a very long to decide what features and dimensions a new product should have.

For example, I took 5 years and 14 prototypes to decide what the actual final dimensions and features of our new Sea Eagle RazorLite all drop stitch inflatable kayaks would be. I can imagine that Haji Lee, Larry Lim and the somewhat chubby Korean gentleman who makes the physical prototypes were not very happy with me. But then again, we have now sold our first 1,000 RazorLites in less than two short years and now it is looking like all those prototypes might actually have been worth it.

Now some projects are much easier. The Sea Eagle NeedleNose SUPs (Standup Inflatable Paddleboards) turned out to be a much easier project. I made a drawing on my iPad at the Outdoor Retailer Show in about an hour and half. It came to me in a moment of inspiration that that inflatable SUPs could be made with a rigid bow mold at the front in order to pierce through waves. This, I cleverly called, a wave piercing design.

So, in an hour and half, sitting in my booth at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City, amid talking to customers and to Chris Jung from Woosung (who happened to be there), I drew this new NeedleNose design – the shape, the dimensions and bow mold. It was pretty crude because I had just begun to learn the drawing program (which was called iDraw), but it was clear enough for my supplier, who happened to be at the show. So, an hour an hour later, I hit the send button and a PDF of the drawing went to Chris Jung and Larry Lim, both of whom happened to be in the States at the show sitting a few feet from me. That was in August of 2006.

Three months later they had made a bow mold of this new design and we were on the water testing the first prototype of this new model. Unlike almost all prototypes we receive, there was almost nothing to change – a slight movement of a few d-rings, the addition of a large D-ring for a paddle leash, the decision of where to put our logo and SUP safety instructions. Two months later we were selling and shipping this model and I applied for a patent on this design. The rest, as they say, is history. I got the patent and we have now sold over 5,000 of these NeedleNose SUPs.

After looking over the transom boat, I walked over and started asking questions and looking at the racing NeedleNose. It really is the same as our standard 12′ 6″ NeedleNose. It was 4″ narrower in order to increase speed. We were building this new model specifically for young lady in Okinawa named, Marta Hogan. She is an avid SUP racer and wanted to use our board for SUP races around Asia – you can see her picture below.

The board we designed for Marta was not only narrower, it has an American fin box without the two side skegs we usually have and it was missing the stainless steel D-rings we normally have for those who want to use a seat and the nylon D-rings and elastic cord we have to for those who want to be able to stow gear. This was because Marta wanted the board as light as possible and wanted the ability to change out skegs for different racing conditions. Other than that it is essentially the same craft and the same shape, although considerably narrower. The prototype looks beautiful, but I very worried that it will be unstable on the water. Going faster will not help if the paddler cannot stand on it.

This is the energetic lady we were making the new 26" wide NeedleNose SUP for. In this picture she is pivoting on our standard Sea Eagle NeedleNose.

This is the energetic lady, Marta Hogan, that we were making the new 26″ wide NeedleNose SUP for. In this picture Marta is pivoting on our standard Sea Eagle NeedleNose.

We move on to the third prototype which is our new fishing FastTrack. This is a fishing version of our Sea Eagle FastTrack. It features what we call “Crocodile” EVA – this is a 1/4″ thick foam padding on the side pontoons and on the cockpit floor. I decided to put this EVA padding on to protect against fish hooks and fish fins. Of the two, fish fins are far more likely to cause puncture problems, by the way. In looking at the prototype Woosung has made for us, we immediately decide that we should use more of the “Crocodile” EVA since it is relatively cheap, very durable and looks really cool. Accordingly, we tell Chris Jung that we want the EVA to extend further down and around on each sides of the pontoons.

We also discuss whether it is possible to add a fish ruler to one side of the kayak so a fisherman or fisher lady can measure the size of the fish they have caught without having to paddle to shore – this is important, especially if there are regulations regarding the minimum size fish that you can keep. We discuss the various ways the fish ruler can be added. Printing on the EVA – we reject this idea because we do not think the pebbly surface of the “Crocodile” EVA will be very suitable. After several suggested alternative methods, we decided we will print a ruler on fabric and then have the ruler glued on the EVA.

Here's what the Fishing FastTrack looks like just before going to production. We plan to sell these by May, 2017

Here’s what the Fishing FastTrack now looks like just before going to production – the white strip on the far pontoon is the fish ruler. We plan to sell these by May, 2017

Since we are in the midst of exploring new rod-holders for this model, we hold off further decisions until we finalize our rod-holder solution. And that is where we leave it. By this time it 5:30 in the afternoon and they propose to take us out to dinner. And so, after about 45 minutes of further chitchat, we head out in two cars for dinner – us in the P. Diddy van with Chris and Larry and Haji and Walter and Haji in Haji’s monster Hyundia. The monster Hyundia is South Korea’s answer to Mercedes and Rolls Royce, being slightly larger than a Mercedes and slightly smaller than a Rolls. I have ridden in this car a few times and comfort is its middle name. It comes complete with TV, computer, Internet and video, super plush leather seats throughout, etc., etc.

Pretty soon we are in downtown Incheon with lights blazing everywhere in a section of the city that is clogged with restaurants, bars and cafes, near where our hotel is. We disappear into one and sit down on some compromise Western style chairs. When I first came to Korea, in most of the restaurants, you sat on a seat cushion on the floor with your legs crossed yoga style. I am quite comfortable sitting like this, but my brother and Ryan, being taller and perhaps more Western, prefer to sit in a regular chairs. Anyway, this evening we are comprising sitting almost on the floor, on a chair that is sunken below the table. So the table is only about 10″ above the floor, but because the floor is sunken below the table, you can sit on it like a regular Western chair.

We enjoy another Korean barbecue meal, this time with more fish than meat and about 50 side dishes, including a selection of 5 or 10 Kimchi dishes. It is, as usual, an extremely healthy and tasty meal. I have to say I particularly like Korean barbecue meals since you see it being made right in front of of you and when you snag the food off the of barbecue, it piping hot, dripping with juices and spices. You then dip your piece of fish or meat into the 3 or 4 different sauce dishes. The result is always hot and tasty and hot dripping good.

At dinner we discuss a wide range of subjects, going from market conditions to sports, to Korean politics (their lady President is about to be impeached) to the upcoming American Presidential election.

Haji asks me who I think will be elected.

I predict Trump, saying while the polls show him losing, I think he will win because the people who will vote for him are not the people who talk to pollsters. Moreover, I say I think trump has tapped into a sea of discontent, literally finding a whole population of people who feel mislead, cheated, over-looked and unheard.

Haji finds this difficult to understand. Why won’t Hillary win?

Too much baggage I say.

“Who will you vote for?” Haji ask.

“Hillary,” I say.

“Why?”

“I am afraid of what Trump might do.”

“Why?”

“Because of his campaign promises.”

“Are you afraid he might not keep his promises?” Haji.

“No,”I reply, “I am afraid he might keep them.”

Haji ponders for a moment and then says, “We think Hillary will win.”

That seems to be the end of conversation.

After dinner, Haji tells us it his anniversary is tomorrow and tomorrow afternoon he will have to drive to the country with his wife to celebrate with his wife’s family.

I remember what Haji told me when I first met him.

“Woman is Buddhist, man is Buddha.”

It seems that Buddha will have to go visit his wife’s family. We shake hands and Buddha gets into the monster Hyundia and heads off to his Incheon home while we head off to the local cafe for some more chit chat with Chris Jung and Larry Lim. By 12 we are back at the hotel. I go to my room and put on some Michael Kiwanuka. His debut album is out a couple weeks and I decide this is good chance to take some time to get acquainted before snoozing off. This is my second or third listening to the album and I find myself really intrigued by it.

The next morning – Tuesday in Korea – I get up, do some exercises in the room (leg lifts, elastic arm pulls, a hundred skips, some hacky sack), shower, get dressed, go down and have an American / Korean breakfast – a little Kimchi, eggs over easy, noodles and sausage. Fit and ready for a new day I go down to the lobby to wait for the P. Diddy limo. Today we are heading to a new Korean city some early boat testing.

When I say new, I mean new. Five years earlier I had come and Haji told excitedly about the plans to build 5 new Korean cities close to Incheon Airport. Now they are up and running, brand new and glistening. Near the port of Incheon, the new building are erected of land that used to be tidal flats and now are city streets with waterways interesting the buildings.

We all pile into the P. Diddy van. Chris flips on the local GI station and Taylor Swift comes on tell us she and an undesignated person got problems and she is not sure she is going they are going to solve them. We head into the traffic of Incheon, wedge our way through city streets and city traffic, listening to an eclectic mixture or rock, rap and country, some out in the last few years, other stuff, like Johnny Cash’s I Walk the Line recorded 50 or 60 years hence. After about 40 minutes we begin to enter the new city section with new modern building jutting up into the sky.

In due time, we pull behind a bus, park and get out of the P. Diddy van. I know we are at the right place because I see some of the guys from the factory inflating the racing NeedleNose, the new boat all drop stitch boat I am testing and a wierd prototype kayak we had seen in the factory that we asked to give a whirl.

We are not testing the all new green fishing kayak because we already know how that paddles. This is because we have already sold over 5,000 of our regular FastTracks, so our concern with model was features for fishing and appearance, not paddling ability.

The big question market is my new all drop dinghy. Some of the Korean factory guys set that up on a floating dock and pull that off the dock and get in. Immediatiately I am aware that is tippier and less stable than I had assumed. Ooops. The next thing I try is the oarlocks. This uses a wierd system of my device and almost immediately it becomes apparent that the grommets that I thought could make simple and cheap oarlocks do make simple and cheap oarlocks that do not work well. Ooops. I try rowing for about 20 minutes, become disgusted and get out to watch my brother and Ryan try out the new NeedleNose.

This is our new NeedleNose 126r racing board. It was good to go.

This is our new NeedleNose 126r racing board. It was good to go.

Here the story is the opposite. Despite my fears about stability, both John and Ryan try it and find reasonably stable and quite fast. Even Chris Jung gives it a whirl and finds it fast and stable. Their best guess is that the reduced width results in about a 20% faster to paddle board. This is huge, as our now new President might say.

image

In the distance you will see us out testing.

After that we test the wierd new paddling SurfSki that Woosung is working on. It shows promise, but this prototype is too tippy and not that fast. We go on to test my new dinghy with a 3 hp gas motor. Here the results are better, but not ideal. The space in the boat only seems to allow 3 people. When one of the passengers shifts their weight, the dinghy tips to the left or right. It simply does not have the stability of a traditional inflatable boat. It does look cool, it is remarkably light (just 61 lbs.), but it is not ready for prime time. Anyway, we try it it with one, two and three people and it motors pretty well, but even in that use, it does not performs ideally. I decide it is time to go back to the drawing board on that one.

By this time, it getting to be around 1 pm, so we head back to the office and up to the sixth floor for lunch. Haji is there to greet us and ask about about our testing. We tell him the NeedleNose was good and the dinghy was no good. On the basis of this testing I have decided to put my dinghy project on hold. I will ask them to fix the oarlock problem and send the existing prototype, but, for the moment, I am not planning to include in this year’s new models.

After lunch, we begin discussing some our conclusions so far, both from our initial visit to the factory to review the new models and with our testing of two of the models. We spend several hours trying to go over changes to the fishing kayak – we are extending and enlarging the protective EVA foam on the outside – this is to prevent fish fins and fish hooks and fish knives from ever puncturing the boat. We are adding a fish ruler on the top of the boat. We want to have cutouts on the front and rear spray skirts to hold up to 4 fishing rods and to also hold fishing tools and lures in a place where they are safe and easily accessible. There is a lot of discussion about how to do this. We finally say they should wait until we get back to the States and provide them with detailed drawings of how all this will work.

For the racing NeedleNose the path forward is much clearer and more immediate. They will make a second prototype for us. One prototype will go to Okinawa where a very fit Marta Hogen will race it in a Standup Paddleboard race taking place at the end of November. We decide this product is ready for prime time and say we plan to introduce in the spring or summer of 2017.

For the dinghy, I say I will provide them with an alternative idea of how to create workable oarlocks on the existing prototype. I tell them if we cannot figure out how to make it row properly, it will be game over. So again, we postpone a final decision on the final product until we can solve the oarlock problem. In this case, I say once they outfit it with workable oarlocks, The plan would then to either give up on the project or come with a final concept boat for 2018. If we do go forward with some version of this boat in 2018, it will mean we will have to get a final version of the new boat by the summer of 2017 in order to test and verifying it will really work.

Making a new boat is a long process. And as mentioned, some products come far easier than others while some end up taking years. And a lot never get developed at all. That is the process. I wish it was cleaner, simpler, more scientific, but that is how it works for us.

After going over new model issues, we move on to pricing and problem issues. We review different histories on different models they produce for us. Some are very good, some are not so good. Our computer system keeps record of every boat we sell – that is 20,000 a year. Woosung makes about 4,000 of those boats. The quantities are not the greatest of what we sell, but they are generally our most expensive boats, so the sales in dollars of the 4,000 boats is actually greater than the other 16,000. In terms of dollars, Woosung is our largest supplier.

The process of discussing pricing and quality issues is also long and arduous and sometimes quite contentious. Fortunately, we have good data for them to review and they do realize the importance of solving both of these problems. The day before I let drop the fact that we have moved some of our production to HiFei (another supplier of ours and a competitor of Woosung). There is nothing like telling one supplier that another supplier can provide the same quality product at a lower price. It gets their attention.

In the case of pricing, Woosung suddenly has a change of heart. It seems where before it was impossible for prices to go down, a new way has been found and now prices will go down on many products. This is something that I had hoped for, but not something I had planned for. So, naturally this is a big win for us. We do not say much, but inwardly we are most pleased by Woosung’s action on the pricing issue.

We move on to the quality issues. Here the details are everything and we spend literally several hours reviewing different problems, trying understand what might be the issue in each case. We look at detailed pictures which we e-mailed ahead. We discuss individual solutions. When you find a problem, the first thing to figure out is where it came from. In the construction of inflatables, there are many things that can go wrong…seams, material, gluing, welding, fittings, accessories. It is important first to focus on the origin of the problem, then to concentrate on the solution.

Generally, our supplier, is the best producer in the world for the products that they produce. We have 48 years of experience of trying many, many different producers. Woosung’s strongest quality is their fearless willingness to make new designs. Most manufacturers are unwilling to try new designs, preferring instead to stick with what has sold and worked in the past. This is not a bad policy if designs stay stagnant, but designs are always changing and it is the nature of things that better ways are found to produce different shapes and different products.

The problem with someone making a new design for the first time is that your supplier is learning how to make it and it takes times to develop the best way to make an individual product. Woosung is more professional than most manufacturers – making a CAD drawing of what a new product will be, establishing specs for every piece and part that goes into the product. All of that reduces possible problems in the future, but it does not eliminate all problems. The reasons for that is when you make something new you find that there are stresses and problems in the production or the use that you never anticipated.

Unfortunately, this process is further harmed by the fact that I love to design things that nobody ever made before. This means I only find out what problems a new product might have after we start the production. This is normal, but it would be nice if products could be perfect from moment the first one rolls off the production line. The situation is further complicated by the fact that most of our success comes from developing unique new designs. And that comes with the need to resolve and solve any problem that becomes apparent before, during and after the production.

About 5 o’clock Haji gets up and shakes hands and says it. Time for him to get back his wife before Buddha is chewed out by his Buddhist wife. That leaves Larry Lim, Walter Kim and Chris Jung with me, John and Ryan to go over the remaining quality problems. We do that for another hour. By this time the sun is setting in Korea and it is again time to consider dinner.

Off we go for another dinner, this time hosted by several of the Woosung workers. It is a jovial affair, with a long dinner and after chitchat. By 12 I am back at hotel, this night too tired to do anything but crash. We have been 3 days in Korea. Tomorrow, after a short wrap up morning meeting we will head out to the airport for a flight to China. Time to change countries.

The next morning the P. Diddy van arrives around 9am and we head off to the office. In the big conference room, my brother, Ryan and myself sit opposite Chris Jung, Larry Lim and Walter Kim. We run through a general review of all the things we discussed, basically repeating everything we said and did. We are interested to know about some of their future projects such as the water bike they are working on, we are proceeding with the NeedleNose SUP and FastTrack Angler. The all DS  (drop stitch) dinghy is on hold until we can figure out what to do about about the oarlocks and how to make it a truly functional boat. We thank them for their price concessions and we ask them to do their very best to eliminate all quality problems. Then we ask for them to give our regards to Haji and wish him a happy anniversary and thank them and all the other folks at Woosung.

All of this takes about an hour and a half and then we go outside, shake hands with the various Woosung folks who are assembled for our departure, bow to them, they bow to us and we get into the P. Diddy van and head off to Incheon airport. In the van, “We know our shit because we good at business and we know our shit” is again playing. I am gathering this is a popular song among the GIs living in Korea. In 40 minutes, we are checking into our China Eastern flight, heading through security, presenting our passports and Visas and finally settling into a very nice airport lounge not far from the China Eastern gate.

Our flight on this day is the polar opposite of the flight coming over Korea. It will not be business class. Fortunately, because we have something called Priority Pass, available through American Express, we get to settle into a very nice airport lounge for about 50 minutes before having mosey over to the gate and to board the China Eastern flight, which is about 124 notches down from the Korean Air flight coming over. The plane is a well worn Boeing of some earlier generation, the seating packed and fully booked.

A characteristic of flights from Korea to WeiHai, the city we are flying to today, is that almost every passenger aside from ourselves is carrying bundle of new bought goods from Korea. Haji has told us the reason for this – duty free in Korea is the cheapest in Aisia and there apparently is a big business in passengers ferrying new bought duty free goods into China. This results in every flight being completely booked and over-crowded because 9 out of 10 passengers are carrying duty free goods.

In my case, I am in the middle seats, wedged between two Chinese guys with duty free goods in their lap, below the seat in front and above in the bag storage compartment. Fortunately, these guys are relatively thin so instead being wedged against fat, fleshy people, I am wedged between cartons of Benson & Hedges cigarette carton, boxes of well-packed bottles of Courvoisier Cognac and boxes of Gucci shoes, Armani shirts. These guys are packing and while they do not take up much space, their goods do.

This would not be much of a problem except that it turns out that the flight is delayed and we have to sit on the tarmac while we wait for smog to clear at the WeiHai airport so it is deemed to be safe to land. Smog is, of course, a common problem in Korea and China. Often flights are delayed by it because it is literally hard to navigate in.

So we sit, wedged in together and I try to start up conversation with one of the guys next to me. He is very nice, seems to know some English, but very reticent about who he is and what he does. I get out out of him the fact that he not just visiting for shopping. Rather he has been in Korea for 12 weeks. When I ask him what he does, his English, which had seemed quite good, suddenly disappears and I realize the conversation is at an end. I have the suspicion that he might be in Korea to do a little surveying from the Chinese government. I have no way to know if this wild guess is untrue or correct.

Once off the ground, the flight to WeiHai is only 50 minutes. So it is a quick up and a quick down. I will say this for China Eastern, they do know how to serve people food in that short time. It comes in heated boxes. Some rice, some pork, some tea. And since our lady stewardesses could not begin serving until we had gotten off the ground and since the pilot is trying to make up for lost time, the lady stewardesses have to zip around, almost throwing the boxes of food at you and then jumping all over each other to serve the 175 passengers and clean up the leftovers of 175 passengers. Because the actual flight turns out to be only about 35 minutes, the stewardesses almost have to run to their seats after the last boxes are collected.

Once landed we begin the familiar experience of going through customs, getting our bags. WeiHai is a relatively small airport serving a relatively small Chinese city. The population is only about one and half million, which almost classifies it as a village by Chinese standards. It has been two years since my last visit to China and right away I notice some things have changed coming through customs. There are video screens above the custom gates. They are playing military music and showing videos of Chinese soldiers marching in formation, of Chinese soldiers practicing unfriendly moves with their bayonets, of Chinese soldiers practicing Marshall Arts. I get the impression that China is getting ready for something. I do not remember seeing these kind of videos coming into WeiHai two years ago. I get the sense that something has changed and that China has decided to be more on the defensive or the offensive – I am not sure which.

It has to be said that whenever you visit any place you usually come away with some impression and since any impression is coming only from yourself, it should be said that impressions can be very wrong. Nevertheless, my impression was that China had gotten a lot more militarized in the two years since I had been there. I know for a fact that this last summer there was a lot of concern about China going to war with the U.S. This was not reflected in our news, but it was passed on to me by Mrs. Zhong, who is our main contact at HiFei Marine, the company we were on the way. She had told me that many Chinese people were talking about the possibility of war with the U.S. because of confrontations between the U.S. Navy and the Chinese Navy around the islands in Pacific Ocean that China was building up from sand spits.

In the U.S. we hear a lot about what we think is an outrageous effort to extend Chinese sea power by literally constructing islands in the middle of the ocean where there were none. China has a different view of that and basically they think that particular area of ocean is theirs and so they feel they have to right to build up and militarize these islands. And if you happen to get into a genial conversation about this, it will soon turn adamant. The Chinese really think they have the right to do this since they have controlled this part of the Pacific Ocean for about 3,000 years.

Anyway, whether my impression on sensing a new militarization in China is correct or not, I do not know. I can only say the patriotic marching music with video of marching Chinese soldiers was real. That said, we were able to cruise through the customs line with little or no trouble.

Once we get out of the security area and start walking into the airport, we see a guy holding a sign with our names on. This must be our ride I surmise. I shake hands with the driver, he kindly takes my bag and we start walking out of the airport into the parking lot which is just across the street from the terminal. In no time, we are seated in a large minivan listening to ethereal Chinese music. Now the WeiHai airport is only about 40 minutes from WeiHai itself. It is a pretty pleasant ride take you through hills and small mountains with ancient China landscapes.

You know you are in the new China when you see Mercedes and BMWs and Maseratis and Ferrarris zipping by on the same road with ancient moped tractors that move at about 8 mph and are loaded with hay or apples. Along the highway you can see old Chinese people with ancient weather beaten faces either picking apples, loading apples, sweeping road with straw brooms or riding bycycles or mopeds with 3 or 4 people clinging to them. Meanwhile, the modern traffic moves along in brand new cars and SUVs, many of new and very luxurious at 70 to 80 mph. In WeiHai you see the new China and the old China on the very same road.

I should tell you that WeiHai is quite famous for apples and we happen to be touching down in the heart of the apple season. Along the road you see row upon row of apple trees each laden with an impossibly dense amount of apples. One wonders how the trees can support so many apples. These WeiHai apple trees are not very tall, 5 or 6 feet high and they seem to far wider than tall, maybe 20′ in circumference. I did not try to count the apples on one tree – it would be impossible – I can only say it looks like these trees hold about 10 times more apples than any apple tree I ever saw in America. I am guessing that 3,000 years of growing apples in the same place teaches you a thing or two.

Into the oncoming traffic lurch these little moped tractor trucks – I am not sure just what they are for – they look like a bicycle with a moped motor and a flat bed truck attached and strung together. They are, as mentioned previously, piled high with hay, or corn or, most often, with apples. These moped truck do not go very far. It seems they are designed to motor about 200 feet from the orchard to the side of the road. I am not sure if they are just severely under-powered or just heavily over-loaded or both. Anyway, they seem lurch out into the road with great regularity and apparently with no sense of oncoming traffic and then proceed about 25 feet at 8 mph to a full sized waiting truck with a real motor.

As we pass the ancient and modern Chinese landscape with smoky mountains shrouded in wispy smog, a call comes in to the driver. The driver talks a bit in Chinese and then passes his cell phone to me. It is Mrs. Zhong on the other end. She is at the factory of course. She says she will meet us at the hotel around 7. This suits us since it is only around 5 and we are just pulling into the hotel. I am look forward to laying out my clothes and maybe heading down to the lobby for some chitchat before dinner. So we agree to meet Mrs. Zhong in the hotel lobby.

The hotel is of the Chinese variety. That is to say big. The lobby has a very high-ceiling – least 60 feet or so with quite impressive pillars leading all the way up to the ceiling. We go to the front desk, present our passports and check in. I have been to this particular hotel four or five times. We first came it had only been open for about a month and so it was almost empty. Coming into the hotel this time, it also seems empty. There are a few hotel guests wandering around, but there is no crowd hovering before the front desk waiting to check in. The check-in is fast and easy and a few minutes later, the hotel check-in lady hands us back the passports and our room keys. Without further ado, we head to our separate rooms.

I did notice something in the check-in process and that was that I was assigned a different floor from my brother and Ryan. I am on the 8th floor and they are on the 7th floor. I think nothing of this, happily supposing that the higher the room, the better the room. When I get to the eight floor I sense something is different. I try to guess what it is and then it strikes me that I am smelling smoke in the hallway. I think nothing of this as the bellboy rolls my bag to the room. He opens the door, let’s me in and says something in Chinese which I suppose is enjoy your room. I hand him a 50 yuan note and he departs.

But almost immediately I realize that I do not enjoy my room since I am smelling the leftover residue of smoke. It is at that moment that I realize that I have been assigned a room on the smoking floor. I immediately call downstairs and ask to speak to a manager who speaks English. I explain that I would really like to change my room for a non-smoking. The manager says very politely in pretty good English that that is impossible since all the non-smoking rooms in the hotel are taken. I am not happy with this and ask if can I at least change rooms tomorrow. The manager says, in quite good English, of course, sir, we will be very happy to change your room tomorrow. There is something in the tone of his voice that tells me this is not the first foreigner assigned a smoking room when they probably wanted a non-smoking room. I decide to bide my time and accept this for the moment.

After opening up my suitcase judiciously (I want to relieve only the minimum amount of clothes because I know I may be moving soon), washing up and brushing my teeth, I go downstairs to talk with John and Ryan in the lobby. We sit down for a while and I tell them my plight. Immediately John suggests that I put Mrs. Zhong on the case. So we sit there for an hour or so and wait for the arrival of Mrs. Zhong.

In do course, Mrs. Zhong arrives in trendy jacket and machine weathered jeans, looking, trim, fit and ready to feed us. Mrs. Zhong is an example of the new Chinese power woman. She is successful, she is good at her job and she knows it. She says for this evening she is going to take us to the hotel restaurant since no doubt we are a little tired from our flight. She is right about that. John already has decided to give up on dinner, so it is only me and Ryan with Mrs. Zhong and we quite happily head into the restaurant, which is serving a kind giant Chinese buffet with what seems like about 1200 different dishes to choose from.

Some Chinese spinach, a favorite, and some other unidentifiables

Some Chinese spinach, a favorite, some shrimp and some other things that I am not sure about.

After acquiring about 27 of the aforementioned delecacies – it not easy to get 5 kinds of vegetables, 6 kinds of meat, 12 kinds of fish, and some odd things I am not really sure what they are on to one pretty big plate, but I manage it. As soon as I have a chance to get some of the food down, I explain my smoking room plight. Mrs. Zhong is very sympathetic. She explains how happy she was when her co-worker finally gave up smoking and how she came to hate the smell of cigarettes. She then goes on to say that she is furious at the hotel for giving me a smoking room.

I tell her that I already asked for a room, but the said they did not have one.

Mrs. Zhong looks at me for a minutes and smiles, “Well, maybe, that is because you are not Chinese.”

There is nothing like a Chinese person working on a Chinese problem.

Mrs. Zhong calls Ms. Wang, her assistant, who is still at the office, explains the situation and tells her to call the hotel manager and threaten to withdraw all future business if they do not immediately give me a non-smoking room. I tell Mrs. Zhong that I can hold out on the non-smoking room until we finish the 22 dishes left in front of me. Mrs. Zhong barks some instructions to Ms. Wang and then she turns to me.

Ms. Wang will call the manager and straighten out the situation, she tells me. In the meantime, I have some clams, some crabmeat, some pork, some chicken, some spinach, some sweet potatoes, some shrimp, some broccoli, and, as mentioned, some other things that I cannot actually identify.

A frown passes over Mrs. Zhong’s face. You have to eat more she tells me and Ryan. I had thought I was doing pretty well, but Mrs. Zhong is clearly worried that we are not eating enough. She calls over a waitress, barks out a bunch of instructions in Chinese and the waitresses goes bustling off towards the 20 or so buffet tables. This is a huge dining room, about the size of a hockey ring. In the distance I can see the waitress piling unknowables on top of two plates. Within minutes she returns to take away our old plates and replace them with two fully loaded new plates. So, now round two of dinner begins.

In round one, I was pretty careful to stay away from things I did not recognize. I round two the Chinese waitresses brought a whole new selection 20 or 30 untried delicacies. In travel, I have a rule – eat whatever that is put in front of you. I can tell that Ryan, while doing his best, is clearly avoiding some of the items on his plates. And indeed, some items can look a little unsettling, scorpions, for example, but at least the ones on my plate were not moving and so they did not present any danger of biting you. I munched away gradually reducing my plate to about third of it size. It was mostly delicious. I particularly like the eel and what looked liked robin’s eggs.

I thought I could safely say I was done, but no, Mrs. Zhong had the waitress bring over a plate of round scaly things. They reminded me of larvae from moths or some other insect. It turned out I was right on the money.

“One of these provides more protein than 3 eggs.” Mrs. Zhong said. She quaffed one down to show me that it could be done.

Since I had just had two robin’s eggs, I was not sure I needed more protein. Of course, they were only a quarter size of a regular eggs, so I guessed I could have a few of these brown, scaly things without overdosing on protein.

I picked one up and chomped into it. It was kind of milky and dense tasting. Not bad, I thought, as I felt my protein level rising.

“Oh, you should have more,” Mrs. Zhong said.

And so I downed a second one. I was beginning to like it.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Silkworm,” was the reply. Well, I had always thought that silkworms were highly valuable and here we were having some as an appetitizer. This must be a pretty rich country to eat silkworms I thought. Anyway, the silkworms were pretty good. I am still not sure whether they were cooked, warm or raw, but whatever, they were tasty and I could feel myself getting stronger by the minute.

That made me decide that maybe I was ready to go out and do battle with the hotel manager. I was dubious that I would have much success by myself, but with Mrs. Zhong along and the silkworms in my belly, I was ready.

So Mrs. Zhong kindly paid the bill and we went off to do battle with the manager. It did not take long. Mrs. Zhong snapped some hard Chinese at the ladies at the front desk and they bowed and kowtowed and a manager appeared. Mrs. Zhong barked some more sharp and hard Chinese at him and he bowed and kowtowed and then a new room key and a bellboy magically appeared.

We shook hands with Mrs. Zhong, thanked her again for dinner. I told Ryan I would meet him downstairs in the lobby in 30 minutes and I went off with the bellboy to retrieve my bag from one floor and move it down to another. Happily the room was as advertised – smoke-free. This gave me some time to hang up some of my clothes, set up my Bluetooth speaker, go on-line, brush my teeth, comb my hair and head back down to the lobby.

Ryan and I sat down there talking about the day, the flight from Korea, the differences between China and Korea and about some of the points we would have to go over. About an hour later we both headed up to our respective rooms. I took some time in the room to listen to some old Rolling Stones music – Exile on Main Street. Yeah, I was an exile in WeiHai! But I was definitely not on Main Street.

In the morning I did some exercises in my room, went downstairs, had a kind of American/Chinese breakfast of eggs, croissants, bacon, noodles & Chinese spinach. I love that Chinese spinach, it is not leafy like our spinach, more long and stringy. Around 9:30 Mrs. Zhong’s Cadillac Escalade SUV arrived with a company driver and John, Ryan and myself piled in and we were whisked away to the main factory and office.

HiFei is a pretty large company by my standards. The main factory and office were two buildings – maybe they accounted for about 150,000 square feet. Nearby, they have 6 other buildings for additional production, storage of materials and aluminum hull production. Maybe, those buildings added another 200,000 square. I am not sure. It is hard to tell when the two main buildings both had 5 floors and the other 6 buildings were generally one or two floors with very high ceilings – maybe 30 or 40′. The company has about 330 employees, making it relatively small by Chinese standards, but quite large by my standards. We have, for example, only about 30 employees and 24,000 square feet, although we have also use two logistics warehouses – one on Long Island, one in Nevada, to carry our inventory of boats.

After driving about 20 minutes from the hotel, we arrive at the new factory and offices. I say new because these buildings were only finished about 5 years ago, but already the buildings are showing signs of aging. There are cracks clearly visible on the front wall of the 5 story building. They build in fast in China and usually the speed of their endeavors takes a toll on the longevity of the building. Inside, the building is still in good shape, almost new condition, although some of the marble steps leading up to the third floor where we are going are showing signs of minor chipping. Perhaps, Chinese marble is not the same as Italian marble.

We first plop our biz bags in Mrs. Zhong’s office. This is very spacious, surrounded by glass walls. After some tea, we move to the conference on the fourth floor. Before doing so, we pop into Mr. Wang’s office, and say hello. Mr. Wang is the big boss. He is fairly tall, 6′, I would guess, somewhere in his forties, a young and successful Chinese business, sporting a short leather coat, an expensive looking knit shirt and some expensive looking Chinese jeans. In China, it is important to look rich, casual and sporting all at the same time.

Our contacts at HiFei are two Wangs, Mr. Wang, the big boss, Ms. Wang, Mrs. Zhong’s assistant and the lady directly in charge with our account, and Mrs. Zhong herself, the able administrator, 2nd boss to Mr. Wang, wearer of many hats.

Mr. Wang is full of cheer and broad smiles. He jumps up to greet us, we shake hands, gives us a hug and starts talking.

Almost immediately, he asks, “Who will be your next President?”

Consistent with my predictions in Korea, I voice the opinion that it will be Trump. My brother John chimes in for Hillary. The voices of reason will overcome the clamor of the masses, he says.

Mr. Wang is clearly disturbed by my prediction of Trump.

“Trump,” he says, “That’s not good. He doesn’t like China. What do you think?”

I tell Mr. Wang I think Mr. Trump is hard to read – it is hard to tell if he means what he says and it is harder to tell if he will do what he means. I guess if he gets elected, we will just have to wait and see, I say.

Mr. Wang does not seem particularly happy with my answer, but the conversation soon drifts to the general economy, thoughts about next year and our hopes for our two businesses.

I tell Mr. Wang it has been a good year for our boat business, not so good for our lure business. Mr. Wang is familiar with fishing since he first started in the fishing business, so he asks what is wrong with the lure business?

I tell him our largest customer, a wholesaler who services WalMart, is having some financial difficulties, taking less goods than in previous years and perhaps having some problems with WalMart itself, who, to put it mildly, is a difficult customer. I also explain that some of this wholesaler’s customers went bankrupt this year and that did not help. I go on to explain that overall our two companies, when taken together, had a solid increase for the year, even though the lures were down about 5%. This is because the boat business is the far larger business these days and our increase in the boat business was in the double digits.

Mr. Wang seems happy with this. He says he has some work to do, but he will see us for lunch. We go off to the big conference room. It is a pretty large room, maybe, 30′ X 60′ with a nice open space at one end and a large, mahogany conference table at the other end. We drop our bags on spare seats at the large mahogany table.

Mrs. Zhong and Ms. Wang come into the room. We discuss some general points. What parts of the inflatable business were up this year, what parts were down. In the case of HiFei they have several sections of business. They make small, portable transom boats that take wooden or aluminum floorboards or inflatable drop stitch floors. They make large inflatable rib boats with outside inflatable tubes around a fiberglass or aluminum hull. They make some kayaks and they now make quite a few inflatable Standup Paddleboards.

The transom boat business apparently is enjoying a recovery. It had collapsed because of the economic woes starting in 2008 and because of the recent problems of the Russian ruble. Since their two biggest customers were from Russia, the last several years was a problem for them. It was the more recent problems of the Russian Ruble that had really cut into their business because orders from Russia just ceased to come for about a year and a half. But now, apparently they are seeing some recovery in Russia, and a rise in general, especially for Europe in transom boats. Their kayak business is small and not important, but their Paddleboard business is healthy and growing.

I contrast their experience with theirs, telling them our transom boats sales had been in collapse every since 2008, but we’re enjoying some resurgence, thanks mostly to the Government of India who had ordered 100 transom boats for flood control work this year. Standup Paddleboard sales for us are now down, from a not too impressive total of a 1,000 units a year, fishing boat sales were stable and growing slightly, kayak sales were growing strongly.

So, if our difference experiences did not exactly match, it seemed that both of our companies were doing pretty well in a not so easy marketplace. We go on to discuss where we see the future and where HiFei sees the future. HiFei seems to be thinking that Standup Paddleboards are going to continue to grow, we are somewhat dubious, seeing our own sales hurt by an enormous influx of competition. I say that I think a good place for us is to concentrate on fishing kayaks and fishing SUPs. For this trip, I have sent the, designs of two new products we want them to make…a small fishing kayak and a fairly large fishing SUP. My brother thinks the future will be in the fishing kayak and I think the fishing SUP maybe the better product.

In the conference room, before going to review the two new products, we did go into a detailed report on how the products they made for us have done in the last year and how we think they will do. For the last several years, HiFei had made just two of our fishing boats. A small solo fishing boat and a little bit larger two person boat. Both models had done well, with almost zero defects, and a very high customer satisfaction level. During the year, because of this successful experience, we switched the production of a larger two person fishing boat to them and although we had only sold a 100 of these new fishing boats, we told Mrs. Zhong and Ms. Wang that we were pleased with their quality and with the sales so far.

Because of this experience and in addition to the success with the fishing boats, we also switched the production of another series, the Sea Eagle Explorers to them. By this point in the year, sales had been pretty good, with these models being up 36% for the year. HiFei had made their first production of these kayaks only a couple of months before, so our purchases so far only represented a small portion of our sales of these kayaks this year, roughly two hundred of the one thousand units we had already sold.

At that particular moment, they were making an additional 100 kayaks of a smaller size. Since we had not seen the smaller size kayak or the newer fishing kayak that they were making in the same size, I asked that samples of both be brought up to the conference room along with a sample of the original model they were making it from from – this is to compare and see if indeed the two models are identical. Ms. Wang got on her cell phone, barked a couple orders in Chinese and in about four minutes, three kayaks were brought in by four technicians and were laid out together.

So now we had an original production model kayak that we had sent them and a new production model they and the prototype of new fishing kayak.

The first thing that caught our attention was how good the new fishing kayak looked. This new model featured green EVA foam over the areas that might get punctured. They had decided to use a special green camo pattern and it did look good. Very professional, with sharp colors that I thought would appeal to fishermen everywhere and still look like a serious fishing kayak. But as I looked closer I noticed a couple of other problems.

On both of new kayaks made by HiFei the pontoon tubes were slightly larger than the original tubes and the cut-outs were slightly smaller. The oversized tubes was not a great problem. For our standard whitewater kayak it actually had some advantages. It would be more buoyant and more stable in whitewater because the tubes were larger. For the fishing kayak it would be more stable for fishing and casting, but it would also be slower to paddle on open water. That was because the HiFei kayaks with the wider pontoons were about 3″ wider than the original kayak.

The problem of the smaller floor cut-outs was more serious for the standard kayak, since that model was mostly used for whitewater. The smaller cut-outs in the floor meant that it was hard to reach and unscrew the drain valves where the cutouts were. This is important because you want the drain valves open when you are in whitewater and closed when you are on flat water – so the kayak drains water in white water and is dry on flat water. We discussed and hemmed and hawed over the two problems for about 30 or 40 minutes. Finally, we decided for this production of the 100 units of the standard kayaks being made, we would accept the slightly larger pontoons as long as they corrected the too small cut outs in the floor. They agreed to do and the crisis of the moment passed. That meant that they would have cut out larger cut-outs and remake 100 drop stitch floors. It amazing what you can do with a pair of scissors and some glue in China.

Since the the fishing kayak was only a prototype, the problem of the wider pontoons and the smaller cut-outs could easily be corrected in the actual production.

By this time, the lunch hour had arrived and, in China, as elsewhere, they do stop for lunch. So, we knock on Mr. Wang’s door, he says he will meet us downstairs and we trundle down the marble stairs, go outside and pile into Mrs. Zhong’s Cadillac Escalade SUV. Mr. Wang follows us in a rather exotic looking BMW. Chinese cars are not very popular with owners and managers of Chinese companies. And because cars are relatively new in China, it seems important for Chinese Owners to have very snazzy cars. Two years before Mr. Wang had a LandRover, but maybe that was not sporty enough, so now it is onto the Beamer.

Today, we head out to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. There is fish soup, some pork, some chicken, some Chinese spinach (a favorite of mine). Of course there is rice. Mr. Wang is wanting to know more about the SUP market and so he asks questions about who is the biggest seller, where the majority of SUP products are sold.

I tell him this is not our best expertise since we are more known for kayaks than SUPs. I posit that the market it still growing overall, but because there are many new entries to market, it is very difficult for the individual companies to grow. I tell Mr. Wang, it is the big surfboard companies that have had the best sales – Naisch, Hobie, Starboard and also, strangely, NRS, a company specialized in river running equipment.

Mrs. Zhong says that the market seems to be divided between the low-price sellers and the bigger brand names. I tell her that it is my opinion that is the big brand names, surf companies in particular, who sell the most boards.

After our general SUP market discussion and lunch, we pile into our respective cars and head back to the factory. After lunch, we head down to the factory floor, which is on second floor of the building behind HiFei’s general office and administrative building. There I spot my new fishing SUP. It is a kind of strange design that both Ryan and John are not too sympathetic about.

It takes only a short glance for me decide that this is a good new item. I particularly like the EVA camo foam. Now I have asked them to put green EVA foam on, but they have chosen the same camo pattern they used on our fishing kayak and I like it immediately.

This is a top shot of the finished SUP hull

This is a top shot of the finished SUP hull

The reason I like it and the reason I am excited is that I can see what it will be. Now, the board we looked at in the factory was not exactly the board you see above. The motor mount – the board at the back – had not been attached and the way it had to be attached had not been decided. We discuss the problem of how to attach motor mount. My original idea was to have 2 grommets (one on each side of the board with a bolt going through plastic dowel inside the grommet on each side.

We try that and immediately I see it is not rigid enough. We try two grommets on each side in front of the board and we find that is not rigid enough. Finally, after pulling out my iPad and drawing various solutions, several of which do not work, we come upon the solution shown above. That is a grommet in front of the board on each side and a grommet behind the board on each side with an inner plastic dowel and bolt and nut going to enclose and secure the motor mount board. It takes about and hour and half of going back and forth to get to this decision.

My brother, though not enthused with particular product, thinks it is interesting and jumps in several good suggestions, some off base, but with one that solves the problem. John’s solution is that is to have a simple grommet front and back of motor mount board. Of course, because these changes take time and implementing them takes more time, we do not actually get to see the solution finished. That is because they have to remove and replace the grommets, change the width of the board, drill large holes in the board, paint it, find the right size bolts and then glue the grommets in place. In truth, we will no get to see the final product for about four weeks, after it has been remade and flown over to us.

The next thing I go about is trying to explain to Mrs. Zhong, Ms. Wang, several of their technicians just how this strange looking board will work. This is a pretty big inflatable SUP – 12′ 6″ long and even stranger, it is 40″ wide. Most SUPs are only 30″ wide, but I wanted the extra width for stability because it is my theory that most fishermen do not want to contend with keeping their balance. Standing is great – you get a much higher line of sight and it is easier to cast. Nevertheless, most anglers do not want to have to worry about falling in while they are casting or pulling in a fish – that is my theory.

I ask where the swivel seat fishing rig is. They produce it after a couple minutes. There it is, still in the box, un-assembled, left untouched after I had sent it to them by air three weeks ago. I guess they figured that I would assemble for them when I got there. They figured right and I did assemble it and the first thing I realized was that my drawing put the 6 D-rings too far apart – in my drawing they are 30″ apart when they should have been 24″ apart. This is unfortunate because now my beautiful swivel fishing cannot be easily tied down. So the first thing I tell them is that in the next prototype they have bring the D-rings closer together. I tell them do not bother with this one because we first need to test on the water anyway. So fix the motor mount and decide to have the existing prototype sent as is.

In the meantime I assemble the swivel seat with the two rod-holders, place it on the fishing SUP and show them how the swivel seat will work after explaining about the D-rings. Suddenly, everyone, my brother and Ryan, Mrs. Zhong, Ms. Wang and the various technicians begin to understand why this may be a good product. Below is a picture not of what it looked like in the factory that day, but a picture of the final prototype before going to production.

This is a picture picture of what our Sea Eagle FishSUP 12.6fs will look like when fully rigged

This is a picture picture of what our Sea Eagle FishSUP 12.6fs will look like when fully rigged

When the swivel seat was assembled on the board, my brother John, Ryan, Mrs. Zhong, Ms. Wang and some of the factory technicians began to understand how this strange shaped SUP would work. It was a FishSUP, hence the name, something you could sit on in the swivel chair and fish, something you could stand up and cast and fish from. Something you could paddle and something you could motor with a small electric motor.

I was very happy with the way that the prototype came out. Of course, it still remained to test this craft on the water and see what it could do. Three weeks later, back in States, we did just that and, as I expected, it was very stable, paddled well, was easy to stand or fish, and motored really nicely. Of course, in WeiHai I did not know that. I only knew the prototype looked good to me.

We spent the rest of Thursday afternoon going over the small fishing kayak wandering up and down factory floors and then going over to the other 6 buildings and walking around them. I can tell you after a day of walking up and down concrete or marble steps and all over 8 factory floors, it can become tiring. Nevertheless for me it is always an interesting experience. Since I had not seen these buildings for about two years, it was interesting to see that the half empty, half built buildings I had seen two years ago were now all built and fully used. HiFei, like Woosung, is a company that has grown greatly in the last several years.

Mrs. Zhong says that tonight John, Ryan and myself will go out to dinner with Julian, their French rib sales guy that works from HiFei and Mrs. Zhong and Mr. Wang. Tonight we will be going to a Japanese restaurant. So after our meeting, we pile into Mrs. Zhong’s car and head out to dinner.

John and Ryan chowing down in the Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant.

John and Ryan chowing down in the Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant.

This proved to be excellent and a nice compromise between Korean and Chinese meals. We chow down on shrimp, steak, pork, vegetables, oysters, clams, veggies, sitting at a table with a built in griddle with a Chinese Samurai chef standing in front of us slicing, dicing, chopping, flipping knives, cutting up veggies, dumping various spices on them, throwing pepper shakers and other spice shakers in the air, using his knife to shovel food on to the hot metal griddle, chopping food up, down and around and then scooting mini size servings of shrimp, fish, steak, spinach, pork, chicken, or whatever to our small plates.

When these little plates in front of us became to crowded with leftover debris they were swooped away by waiters hanging behind us always ready to replace our dirty empty plate with clean little plates soon piled high with more little servings. During the small intermissions between arriving and departing plates, I get to talk to Julian about the state of the rib business. Julian had originally worked as an Asia sales manager of Penel e Flipo. By a strange coincidence, Penel e Flipo was the second company we imported boats from in France. I remember visiting their office in the seventies many times.

Here is Julian on one of the Highfield Ribs

Here is Julian on one of the Highfield Ribs

Julian is a young French guy in his late 30s, thin, dark, handsome, with long hair that occasionally flopped over the side of his face. It was Julian’s task to develop inflatable ribs for HiFei, which they sell under the trademark name of Highfield. Originally these ribs were primarily fiberglass hulls using Pennel e Flipo’s legendary hypalon inflatable boat material. Julian has now worked in China for HiFei for 6 years and has concentrated on the development of large aluminum ribs using the same inflatable boat material.

Now a lot of time has passed between my first visit to Penel e Flipo and the time that Julian had worked for the same company, but some things still remained the same. They still were a leading producer of inflatable boat material. At the time I used to visit them, they were supplying of Zodiac’s hull material. Zodiac, at the time, was the most famous inflatable boat company in the world.

How the times have changed. Today Zodiac has gone through many permutations, becoming first and foremost a supplier of military equipment throughout world. The recreational inflatable boat side of the business kind of collapsed, except for the business of selling big ribs to industry and national governments, mostly for rescue and military purposes. Today, Zodiac still exists, but the inflatable boat side of recreational use hardly exists and has been sold off to various corporate players who do not seem to know to do with it.

Anyway I am interested to learn more about building of inflatable ribs. For those of you who do not know, an inflatable rib is a boat inflatable section around a rigid hull. The hull is usually fiberglass and sometimes aluminum. In a way, it is the best of all worlds. You the great ability of rigid boats to cut through large ocean waves combined with the safety of having inflatable section to stabilize it on sharp turns and give inherent buoyancy so you do not sink.

You might think that the inflatable pontoon going around a rigid fiberglass hull is the weakest and most easily damaged part, but you would wrong because it is generally harder to damage inflatable air chambers than a rigid fiberglass hull. Aluminum is something of a different story. It really depends on the thickness of the aluminum being used. If the aluminum is quite thick, it is far stronger than fiberglass. If it is not so thick, then it is susceptible to dings and damage from impacts. Generally an inflatable pontoon can better withstand impacts because they tend to give. That is true as long as the impact is not into a really sharp object. Then, you can have a puncture, but since inflatables usually have multiple air compartments, there is still plenty of flotation left.

So I spend most of the dinner querying Julian on HiFei’s inflatable rib business. This is a growing part of HiFei sales and a part of the business that has become quite significant. We stayed out of this section of the market because we could never figure out how to ship inflatable ribs. Our business is based on selling things over the Internet and shipping them by Fedex or UPS. Selling $50,000 boats, which a rib often costs, is a hard sell on the Internet and shipping 800 to 1500 lb. boats is even harder for FedEx or UPS.

HiFei has been making inflatable ribs for about 1o years. At first they started with fiberglass ribs, but they found out that these could be easily damaged and the competition in that part of the part of the market was fierce. Then they started making aluminum ribs. There was far less competition in that kind of inflatable rib, so they quickly established themselves as the market leader of inflatable boats with aluminum hulls. Julian tells me this is the part of the business that he had the most impact on, having personally helped with the design of these models. Julian likes aluminum ribs over fiberglass ribs because they are far more durable generally and because the competition is far less. In the last few years, they have become the market leader for high end aluminum ribs.

We have a nice conversation between Julian, John, Ryan, Mr. Wang and Mrs. Zhong in between the endless plates of cooked and chopped shrimp, fired eggs and rice, sashimi (raw fish), chicken, steak, pork, fish, vegetables. In short, we did not go hungry and all was delicious at the Teppanyaki restaurant. After dinner, Mrs. Zhong drove us back to our hotel while Julian and Mr. Wang peeled off in there respective cars.

Back at the hotel, we talk a little bit downstairs, plan to go for a group walk down by the river in morning and talk about our upcoming visit to HiFei’s new SUP factory which is located about 30 minutes away. By ten, we are back in our respective rooms. I listen to some Black Eyed Peas to get in the mood for the SUP factory visit and nod off to sleep shortly.

The next day we meet downstairs for our walk around WeHai. The day before Ryan has taken this walk along a river canal that runs through town. He tells us it was very interesting so off we go. After crossing the street from the hotel, we take a right turn, walk two blocks and then come to a stairway that leads down to the river that runs through the city. This river does not have a natural river bed, rather it has a pre-made canal path. How old that path is I have no idea. It could be 50 years, 100 years, 500 years. It sure is pretty with a series of little bridges going over it. So the river flows straight and is about 75 feet wide. I gather it is tidal, or just very shallow. I am thinking it is tidal and it gets a lot deeper when the tide is in, but I do not really know.

This is not the bridges that we passed under along the river, but it might give you an idea of what they looked like. Ryan took this picture the day before our walk.

This is not the bridge that we passed under along the river, but it might give you an idea of what they looked like. Ryan took this picture the day before our walk.

As we walk along the river, I am struck by several sights. There seems to be a group of older guys and gals practicing Tai Chi up on hill among some trees. Now we are in the middle of this city with one and half million people, but somehow there is this quite open space with trees on a hill, the city buildings hang in the background, the city sounds can still be heard, but there they are practicing Tai Chi moving in slow motion, in tune with some different reality.

Along the river walk I see a guy with a giant bamboo pole dressed in what looks like a blue suit – it is sashed around the waist, the short is loose, the pants are loose, it is a Kung Fu exercise suit, I guess. I am pretty sure he could take out John, Ryan and myself in one smooth stroke, but he does not and I am grateful for that. Nevertheless, I take care to give the gentleman a wide berth. There is an old lady walking in sneakers, apparently out for a morning jaunt in the city, with chiseled face that looks like it was etched out of a pale white stone. I can see the muscles of her face wriggling and alive, yet there is another reality of her face, it is ancient, out of a different place from a different time.

There are joggers and walkers and one wierd guy who was practicing walking with his arms sideways on a stone wall. The walls have two inset grooves, each about 2″ deep, so there is something to grip upon. And while almost all of the strength needed for this strange sideways crawl is provided by his two arms, I can say that occasionally he uses a foot to stablilize his body when changing hands and more bring himself forward. Imagine a crab in human form scuttling along a wall and then you have the picture of this guy. I can only think that he was in good shape and also another good candidate to give a wide berth to.

We walked briskly along the river for about a mile breathing in the early morning air as the sun was rising and providing its muted glow. Because it is in WeiHai, China, of course there is no direct view of blue sky. Rather there is a gray hazy overhead with a dim sun providing the fact that it existed, at least in the background of the gray, yellow haze. WeiHai residents are out by the river by the hundreds. This is a vibrant and beautiful Chinese city, pollution aside, and the residents of WeiHai are taking full advantage of their beautiful city this early morning.

Just about then Ryan said follow him and we took a sharp left up a narrow stone walkway. Suddenly, we found ourselves in the middle of a farmer’s market right in the middle of the city. And this farmer’s market had everything one could want, raw oysters, cut up goat legs, alive and bustling scorpions ready for frying, blankets, radios, computers, live chickens, silkworms ready for whatever, wrapped crabs for Longshan Lake, lobsters, dogs, Chinese vegatables, Chinese fruits, WeiHai apples and much much more.

We walked through this market, amazed and thrilled and maybe a little horrified, by what we saw, but it was all there, and it was all Chinese and John, Ryan and myself were happy we took that stroll. The rest of the walk was rather prosaic, walking again on city streets, threading our way through the throngs of people now on the next few blocks, nevertheless, over the course of the walk I had the feeling that we had walked in and walked out of the real China. The walk itself was quite invigorating and even the somewhat polluted air felt good.

At the hotel, we went back to our rooms, showered and prepared for the new day to come. This was the day that we going to the SUP factory, so bang on time, Mrs. Zhong showed up with Ms. Wang, aka, Shirley. We piled in and off we went. The trip to the SUP factory was in a different direction and it took a good 50 minutes to get there. We drove by hills and valleys, mostly filled with WeiHai apple trees which were in the process of being picked and loaded to mini-moped trucks. As the trucks would put along for about 200 feet to where a real truck was parked and then the apples were off-loaded from mini-moped trucks to real trucks. It was October in WeiHai.

In a short time, we pulled up to the new SUP factory. This was an interesting visit for me because I had visited this same factory two years ago and at that time it unfinished. They did have little area in the factory then that was up and running, but most of the factory was either empty or not operating. When we arrived this day all had changed. I could see, even from the outside, that all had changed. There was a testing pool outside, now empty, but I presume it was full a month or so before. I not sure what they would learn from this testing pool. It looked about two feet deep and seemed to about 30′ X 70′. I would guess by the second or third stroke your board would be crashing on the other end.

The most visible evidence of this was the multitude of workers walking and milling around outside. Apparently, they were on some kind a break and 30 or 40 people are talking and milling around outside, some sitting, some playing some basketball around the one hoop they had standing watch over the factory yard.

It was evident that there were more people inside and that activities were going on. We went in, put on the regulations shoe covers to protect against dust in the factory. We were then given a kind of tour. Walking through the factory floors (there were several), looking at cutting machines, printing machines and various inflatable SUP manufacturing equipment, almost all of which busy producing SUPs for various customers. Mrs. Zhong explained that they had enjoyed substantial growth this last year. In particular, they were having good luck with both large and small customers in Europe.

We wandered up and down stairs, from one floor to another. We watched some of the workers putting together seams, a difficult hand gluing process that must be done with great care with both the humidity and temperature (F) between 60 and 75. We watched their printing machine as it spewed out hundreds of side panels with different customers names on it. We watching drop stitch material being cut into pre-programmed patterns. We walked past several hundred inflatated SUPs as they were being checked for air tightness. We walked around new and different designs they were working on.

I could see that everything had been changed and the factory was now up running. Mrs. Zhong explained how they were going to have to move their present factory – the one we had visited yesterday – to another location. Perhaps, she said they would move the factory to this location. They were waiting to hear from the local Chinese authorities just when they would have to move. The city of WeiHai was planning a whole new city right where their present factory was. Perhaps, tomorrow, Mrs. Zhong would take us to a museum that had been setup to show the plans of this new city.

I explained that John and Ryan probably could not go since they were going to visit another factory the next day, but I said that I love to go and se the plans for the new city.

As usual the drive to SUP factory and the tour of the SUP had taken more time than anticipated. We drove back around 2:30 in the afternoon and Mrs. Zhong took us to a new mall in WeiHai where we went to a fancy restaurant that served lunch in pots. This ended up being a mixture of foods, kind of part soup, part meat, part fish, all lunch. It proved to be delicious.

After lunch, Mrs. Zhong gave us a choice. We could head back to factory for more talk or she could drop us off at the hotel for some well-deserved rest. We opted for the well-deserved rest and even wimped out on an invite to dinner, saying that we would get something at the hotel and take the night off. And that is what we did.

Now the next day Ryan and John were headed to another factory that had invited us to visit. I opted to go HiFei to have what we call a wrap-up meeting. All of us decided to crash early and meet the next day at 7am in the lobby for a morning walk. It was not to be. When I got up, I could see it poring rain. So that morning I took the picture that is at the front of this blog story, did some exercises in the room, went downstairs for breakfast and met Mrs. Zhong around 9:30 am for the wrap up meeting.

We drove off to the factory while Ryan and John headed out to the other factory. I had a nice wrap up meeting with Ms. Wang and Mrs. Zhong, going over final changes to the next production, changes to the two prototypes and reviewing our hopes for the coming year. It was all pretty straight forward stuff and pretty soon it was lunchtime.

On the way to lunch, Mrs. Zhong me took to a museum that was displaying architect plans and a scale mockup of the new city the Government officials were planning to create in the next five years. By chance, one of HiFei’s former employees was working at this museum, so Mrs. Zhong called and they let us in. It seems the museum was not quite open to the public, we got a sneak peek anyway.

image

This is a mock up of the new city that is just being built in WeiHai. They expect to have 500,000 people living in this city in five years. The video screen in the distance is about 20′ high by 80′ long.

A lonely guard comes to the door of museum, let’s us in, leads us to a giant room where the mock up of the new city is and then turns on the video, so I can get the full impact of what is going to happen here in the next 5 years. Of course, the video is in Chinese, but from the pictures and from the mock up I can see this is going to be a big deal. Not only are they planning apartment building, shopping malls, restaurants, bars, they are also planning lakes, rivers and boating marinas and, like many a Chinese highway, all this area will be “gardenized.” That means they plan to landscape and pre plan everything, including, bushes, lawns, hedges.

This may seem normal to you, but you have not seen the area surrounding the museum where they plan to put up this new city. It is not exactly finished. Here’s a view of some of the surrounding area with some of the first buildings going up.

They started these buildings in July. They may not look ready for 500,000 people, but I bet they will be ready in five years.

They started these buildings were started in July, 2016. They may not look ready for 500,000 people, but I bet they will be ready in five years.

The lone guard in the museum is very kind while I wander around, taking pictures with my cell phone, asking Mrs. Zhong questions about the new city. He decides he wants to have my picture taken with him. So Mrs. Zhong takes a picture with his cell phone of me and the guard, arm in arm. He seems generally happy that someone has taken interest is the new city he is standing guard over. I am guessing he has been a little lonely in his new job, standing guard over a museum that is yet to open.

After seeing the video and wandering through the new museum, Mrs. Zhong and I went off to Koreatown for lunch. I should explain that WeiHai is quite close to Korea and so there is a large contingent of Korean companies in WeiHai. This includes Woosung, our Korean supplier who also has a factory here. So, Mrs. Zhong takes me in here Cadillac Escalade SUV to Koreatown to have a Korean barbecue. We had a nice lunch, chatted for a while about the changes coming in China and then she drove me over to the hotel where I would get a welcome another break. This is my last full day in China. Tomorrow, I fly back to Korea and then the day after fly back to The States.

Mrs. Zhong dropped me off around 4pm and said she would be back by 7 to pick all of us up for dinner. When I get back, I head up to my room to rest and gradually gather my stuff for the next day’s ride to the airport. Pretty soon I get a call in the room from Ryan, telling me they have returned and to me meet downstairs in the lobby. I head down, my bag almost fully packed and ready for the next day’s flight, and talk with Ryan. Apparently, they have had an interesting meeting. The supplier they met is promising to make SUPs for a far lower price than we currently buy.

This is a common softy in China. You meet a new supplier and often their price is very low. It is also a danger sign because often it is just a lot wall price to pull you in. Often a new company will actually sell goods at a loss, on the theory that once they get you, they can raise the price at a few production runs. But we have seen this before and I am concerned that the new price is just a come-on. Anyway, Ryan and myself and eventually John sit in the lobby discussing the ins and outs of new suppliers in China.

At 7 promptly the Escalade rolls up and we are whisked downtown.

Tonight we are heading to Chairman’s Mao’s favorite restaurant. The name of the restaurant is the The Great Wall. I do not know if it actually was Chairman Mao’s favorite restaurant but it definitely dates back to the time of civil revolution in China and the time of Chairman Mao. I have been to this restaurant several times in my visits to WeiHai. It is an old style restaurant from the Communist era. You could say that China is still in the Cummunist Era since they are still in power, but I would suggest that there have been so many changes since the time of Chairman Mao that it is in fact a different country. I may or may not be right about this.

In any case, the Chairman Mao restaurant is interesting in itself. You come in on the ground floor where you order your dinner before going upstairs to receive it. On the ground floor various kinds of food are on offer. Fresh seafood is kept in 3 concrete boats. Fish, eels, lobsters and many other kinds of living seafood is on offer. Next to the open boats with water and live seafood in them are platforms loaded with other different kinds of seafood, this time not moving. So on these platform tables were wrapped crabs, lobsters, clams, chilling on ice, ready to be cooked. Around the outer walls of this room are selection of meats and vegetables. The way all this works is the a waiter comes up and talks to someone to gives orders. In this case, the waiter ends up talking to both Mrs. Zhong and Mr. Wang while we wander from boat to boat, table to table, and the outer perimeter of the room. We are not so certain what to pick. It is kind of like Pin the Donkey where you throw darts blind-folded and you hits what you hits.

So we pick and choose, pointing to various kinds of food we think we might like. We are somewhat at a disadvantage because we do not actually know what we are picking out. In some cases, of course, various kinds of fish, swimming or laying out on an iced tray, are easy enough to get an idea of, but there are also a lot of things that either we have no idea about what it is or no idea of what it might taste like. In the end, we have to lean on our hosts, Mr. Wang and Mrs. Zhong.

After picking and choosing what we might like, we go upstairs and are lead into a room. Mr. Wang is not very happy with the room because he does not find it suitably big enough, but there is no helping the situation. It seems that all the bigger rooms are occupied. Chairman Mao’s favorite restaurant is very popular this evening. Tonight, not only Mr. Wang and Mrs. Zhong are present, but also Miss Wang and three other workers. One of the workers is the production manager, another is specialized in marketing and a third is a technician working on making new prototypes. Two or three waiters arrive bringing food and drink for the table. So with John, Ryan and myself we are a group of 8. And while the room could be bigger, it easily fits all of us.

Some yummies swimming in a concrete boat.

Some yummies swimming in a concrete boat.

We start out simple with peanuts (not so easy to pick up with chopsticks), veggies, some fish, some bits of pork, some fried scorpions (ah, so tasty and crispy). It gets more complicated from there with waiters bringing more and more servings to our room. This kind of feasting is very popular in China with those who can afford it and it is pretty obvious, Mr. Wang can afford it. So we dig in big, battling our way through plates of oysters, fish, steak, chicken, pork, Chinese spinach, and lots of other vegetables and servings of things I cannot quite identify. It is big, glorious Chinese feast and we go with the flow.

The things on the left are crabs tied with colorful strings, the rest I am not sure about.

The things on the left are crabs tied with colorful strings, the rest I am not sure about.

Our conversation covers many points. We discuss SUP design…the prototype manager and the productive and production manager are surprised that I, an old man, am using a drawing program and an iPad to make designs. Yes, I tell them. Originally, I taught myself to make drawings on a graph pad where I gave a measurement to one square, for example 6″. This would allow me to draw and calculate the exact dimensions of some future product. However, drawing with a pencil on graph paper is pretty slow and not very beautiful the way I did it. So, about 5 years ago, when I got an iPad, I also invested $8.99 in drawing program called iDraw. That was an Apple product and while a lot less sophisticated than Adobe, it was simple enough for me to learn and actually produce drawings that not only looked better, but were very accurate regarding dimensions.

So I explain all this to the prototype and production managers. It all seems very strange to them, an older man making drawings on an iPad.

“Who does your website,” asks the marketing manager, “we all admire your website.”

I explain that John does that and he started the website in 1996. In other words, 20 years ago. That seems like an impossibly long time to the HiFei technicians to have had a website.

John comes in on the conversation. He goes through the fact that we did not even have an order cart when first went online – all we had was an 800 number to call if you had any questions. He relates how we were surprised to find out that we had sold over $50,000 the first year. Then it dawned on us maybe it would be a good idea to have an order cart. We still worried, John related, whether anyone would use the order cart, especially at night. And then when we found out that most of the orders came at night, we finally realized that this had the makings of a business.

All the HiFei guys listened although they did not understand a word of English. Then Mrs. Zhong or Mr. Wang would translate what John said. This started a spirited discussion between all the HiFei people who seemed to discuss and argue about Web based marketing. The HiFei marketing guy, who was pretty young, was very enthusiastic about Web marketing. Then the conversation drifted on to e-mail marketing.

We had a discussion that some things were not possible in China since China had basically either outlawed or blocked most American social media. We explained that we thought YouTube, Facebook, WordPress, InstaGram all offered great ways to get information out on your products to your customers, but that could not be done in China because all were blocked.

I explained that when you looked at our website in China whole portions of it was missing. All the videos linked to YouTube, for example were just missing.

In fact, I pointed out rather cutely that if you want to seewhat our website actually looks like you have to go to Spain. This was actually a clever reference to the fact that Mr. Wang and Mrs. Zhong had just come back from Spain. So then Mrs. Zhong came, in on the conversation and began to relate what our website looked like when she was in Spain.

The three HiFei workers seemed very surprised to learn that various parts of our website were blocked in China.

Anyway, our feasting and conversation carried on for a good two hours and I felt good about it because we got to know each other better. I was particularly struck by the enthusiasm of all the workers. Our conversation drifted over many topics…the economy of China, the U.S. Presendential election coming up…I again prediicted Trump would win. We talked about life in China, the high prices of real estate, the never ending building of new cities and the never ending thrust of China into the future.

During the conversation I showed some pictures from home. Mr. Wang looked at some my pictures showing blue skies and open beaches and just said in English one word “Unbeleivable.”

I knew what he was talking about: what was unbelievable to him was our blue skies and the open waterways that we had access to. You see in WeiHai they rarely have blue skies…most of the time the sky was a yellowish gray. It often looked like it was about to rain. Sometimes, it was about to rain. But many times were no clouds in the sky to rain out of…just a dull yellowish gray.

Now WeiHai and the surrounding area are quite beautiful. The city itself has a strange European influence since it was occupied by Germans and, at times, English. They left some European style buildings that still stand. And some newer buildings also echo that style of architecture. The city is quite pleasant with wide streets and a wonderful road that passes a long waterfront park. The city is full of optimism. An example of that is a statue of two hands holding a concrete picture frame that might be 15′ high by 30′ wide. The picture frame is open and before you is the Yellow Sea stretching out into the distance. The future is wide open and for every citizen to make, that’s what I think the statue says.

The skies in WeiHai are not always a yellowish gray. This is a picture of a house that I visited in WeiHai a few years back and as you can see the sky is actually blue.

The skies in WeiHai are not always a yellowish gray. This is a picture of a house in the distance that I visited in WeiHai a few years back and as you can see the sky is actually blue.

And there are beaches and places you where you take a boat. I can vouch for that because we have tested boats in WeiHai on several occasions. Still the beaches in China are mostly crowded, the highways full of traffic and the sky a yellowish gray.

After dinner, we shook hands with Mr. Wang, Mrs. Zhong, Ms. Wang, and three other HiFei employees and Mrs. Zhong ferried us back to our hotel room. That evening I listened to some Elvis Presley and to Michael Kawanuka in my room. I was getting to really like Michael. My trip was coming to end. In the morning I only had to worry about getting to airport, getting on plane to Incheon, spending the night at the Grand Hyatt at Incheon Airport and then, finally taking a business class flight the next day back to JFK.

It sounded simple, but it turned out, like Odysseus, there were a few twist and turns to take before my final arrival home.

Sitting in what Ryan called a Big-Ass Chair at the Hotel Bliss, waiting for the arrival of Mrs. Zhong

Sitting in what Ryan called a Big-Ass Chair at the Hotel Bliss, waiting for the arrival of Mrs. Zhong

So all went well the next morning, at least until I got to the airport. Mrs. Zhong showed up around 9am to drive me to the airport. We had an exhilarating talk on the way to the airport, going over the different points of our meeting, the possible business ahead, the state of China’s economy, why she thought HiFei was positioned to grow in the future, why there were so many apples on a WeiHai apple tree (it turned out Mrs. Zhong had no idea – it is just that they always had a lot of apples), and several other topics before dropping me off at the front entrance of the airport.

Inside, things did not go quite as planned. It turned out they were not going to open my gate to accept passengers for an hour. After an hour passed, the gate did open and I filed in, presenting what I thought was my passport to a rather sleepy looking Chinese guard. I went in and found out that I had to wait another hour for China Eastern airline customers to present their passports and tickets. So, after the allotted hour, I waited in another line, happily talking to some German guy who was also flying to WeiHai. He was ahead of me and he got stopped for having a suitcase with more than 50 lbs. of stuff in it. He got thrown off of the line while he had took out his excess clothes and had to carry them in separate laundry bag. I felt sorry for him and self-satisfied for myself, since I knew about this regulation and planned my baggage accordingly.

Then I confidently walked to the ticket counter, handed the pretty Chinese girl my passport and my e-ticket papers. She started scanning the computer and a frown passed over her serene face. She could not find my name on the passenger list. I confidently pointed to my e-ticket papers and that was when she said “I do not understand, your name does not match your e-ticket.”

It was then she passed back my passport. The only then that I discovered that it was not my passport. It was my brother’s passport. I do not know if I can impart the shock and awe I felt when saw my brother picture and name on what I thought was my passport. Let’s just say I was not a happy camper. It meant, quite literally, that I could not leave China.

I did not take long for me to figure out what had happened. When I had checked into the Bliss Hotel four days before that lady who gave back my brother’s passport and my passport, simply reversed the order and gave my brother’s passport to me and my passport to my brother. It did not help that neither my brother nor I thought to look at the passports being handed back to us to see if indeed they belonged to us. I will not make that mistake again.

Unfortunately, that still left me on the line wit wrong passport. I now had to make way for the German passenger who had now replaced his bag and he, quite justly, had the same look of sad contempt at watching fellow passenger fail in the ins and outs of international travel. So, I had to turn around go back through where had come, explain to the sleepy guard who did not speak English that I needed to get into the airport. That is not as simple as it sounds because technically I had already passed through the first barrier out of China. Fortunately, another guard, not so sleepy, came over and waved me back through.

Back in China, I then had to call my brother. His phone did not answer. I then tried Ryan. Fortunately, his phone did answer. I explained plight and told Ryan that I not only needed to get John to bring my passport, but I needed John to get me a new flight to Incheon, since by this time, it was obvious that I would miss my flight.

Well, as they say, it darkest before the dawn. I settled in to the Airport Restaurant, munching down some kind soup stew – not so easy with chopsticks – fortunately, they also provided a spoon. In due course, I got another phone call from Ryan saying that my brother had booked a new flight for me, this one for 5pm on Asiana Airlines and that they would be at the airport and hour or so. They had to be at the airport because they were flying on to Shanghia and certainly John would need his passport just as much as I needed mine.

After more Chinese stew soup and several cups of green tea, Ryan and my brother did arrive, John and I did exchange passports and, in due course, after waiting a couple of more hours for the flight gate to open up, I did go through. The ticket lady at Asiana was polite and there were no problems with my passport or my bag and so it was not too long before I was actually on a plane headed to Korea. Of course, being on plane is not necessarily the same flying plane. It turned out that there were traffic problems at Incheon Airport, so we were not allowed to take off for about two hours.

Anyway, the Asiana flight going was far better than the China Eastern coming – all 35 minutes of it, not counting the two hour wait on the Tarmac. Going through Korean customs was pretty smooth, getting on the Grand Hyatt bus to hotel was relatively easy and by about 9:30 pm I was actually in my room. That left me about a half hour to go downstairs and get hamburger – I was due and after, I was now at a place that I could was almost home, ensconced in big hotel in big airport a mere 14 hours from home.

This is the skywalk from one part of the Grand Hyatt to the other part. I was almost home.

This is the skywalk from one part of the Grand Hyatt to the other part. I was almost home.

After dinner I wandered around the big hotel to get an idea of the facilities. You never know when you might passing through Incheon so I thought it would be a good idea to reconnoiter. Most of the hotel was empty. Restaurants, bars, stores, all were closed or empty.  I passed by a Casino. It too was empty. Enough of that, I thought. I went back to my room and set up my speaker and listened to some old Eagles’ music about the Dalton Brothers. Two men come to town, only only one man leaves, something like that. I was almost back in the States.

I will not bore you with many details of the rest of the trip. It was pretty routine. I woke on time, I got to the airport on time. I got on the plane on time and I landed on time. In a mere 14 hours I flew 8,000 miles and landed at JFK. There I was greeted by Julio, the limo driver, who ferried me through the heavy traffic, even though it was only about 12:30 pm. In less than two hours, I was home. Home with my wife and son. It was good to be back.

In looking at this blog story, I realize it is my longest. And yet, the last half of this story is devoted to one my shortest overseas trips. I guess it a good thing that I did not try to describe a long trip. Ryan and John, by the way,  continued on for another seven days, doing the second leg of the trip that I would normally go on.

I believe travel changes you and travel changes your perspective. I think Benjamin Franklin was right – you see more and do more when you travel. More importantly, you see things and hear things that you never would otherwise. And if Mr. Franklin is right that travel greatly extends and enriches your life, then I have lived 5 or 10 times longer than most humans.

 

 

 

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I Go For A Row In the Dark and Ponder The Donald

 

This was all I could see as I rowed out of Little Bay

This was all I could see as I rowed out of Little Bay

By Cecil Hoge

On the morning of November 9th, 2016, I decided to go for a row. What perhaps would make this unusual for most people was the fact that at the time I went, 5:15am, it was still pitch black and about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Most people do not go rowing at that hour or in that temperature, but I am a little strange and going at that time in that temperature is not unusual for me.

Many people would think that it is quite cold and perhaps dangerous to go when it is dark and relatively cold, but I paddle or row almost all year around and about the only thing that stops me is ice or driving rain or driving snow. To be sure, I was not wearing a short-sleeved knit shirt with someone’s nifty logo or a bathing suit. Rather I was wearing a new Duluth Grab jacket, good gloves, warm socks, comfortable Croc mocs and fleece lined pants. When I go rowing, I am as snug as bug in a rug, warm and toasty, ready for a relaxing and energizing and warm row for an hour or more.

You might have noted that November 9th, 2016 was the day after Donald Trump was elected our 45th President of the United States. That’s true. And I will say that The Donald was on my mind. I had stayed up a good portion of the night before watching the election results. Around twelve the night before, when the outcome I dreaded was about to occur, I decided to get some rest. That worked until about 4:30 when I woke up, flipped on the TV and confirmed what I feared all along. Donald Trump had been elected President. That was the end of possible further sleep, so I decided to get up, have a cup of coffee with my wife who always gets up very, very early, ruminate a bit with her on the fate of the world and then go for a row.

Before heading out into the dark, I poured another cup of coffee into a special spill-proof stainless steel coffee mug from Starbucks that keeps my coffee nice and hot and I headed out. As mentioned, it was almost pitch black when I got to my dock, although I could make out the shadow on the dock that was my boat. In touching the plastic seat of my rigger arm rower, I could feel it was completely soaked with a cold dew. Fortunately, I keep a dry seat cushion in a small waterproof boat locker on my dock, so it was only necessary to pull it out and place it on the wet plastic seat. With coffee safely on board, I slid my rowing kayak off of my dock and sat down on my nice dry seat cushion. I was ready to head out.

The first thing I noticed on this dark and chilly fall day was the fact that there must have been a lot of Canada geese around. Somewhere in the dark I could hear them squawking and flapping away. I was not sure just where they were, but that quickly became evident when I kept rowing and several hundred birds started squawking in an increasing crescendo and then began to take off, flapping their wings, squawking and quacking as they became airborne. It sounded like a 747 taking off.

As I rowed into Setauket Bay the faint image of the sky, trees and landscape began to emerge

As I rowed into Setauket Bay the faint image of the sky, trees and landscape began to emerge along with the lights of some houses

I kept rowing on. I am used to noisy geese and a multitude of other birds. As I came out of my bay and headed into Setauket Bay (the next bay over), I could see light beginning to brighten the back of the bay. It was still dark, but now I could see some slight awakening of the sky and some lights from houses. Above you will see a picture of that.

Rowing out through Setauket Bay towards Port Jefferson Bay, I began to think, for the first time clearly, about the momentous events that had taken place the night before. Unlike most people, I had anticipated that Trump would win. I had calculated that there was a vast sea of discontented voters out there and that Trump had managed to channel into their fears and their dreams. Whether Trump knew or understood or felt their pain was perhaps something different, but what was clear to me, is that he had identified their pain and had locked on to that discontent as a movement, as he quite truthfully said. So, no matter his motives, I knew Trump had recognized the discontent in the electorate, the economic angst that affected the majority of voters and had bent that to his own purposes.

As I came out into Port Jefferson Harbor, the sky began to become more visible

As I came out into Port Jefferson Harbor, the sky began to become more visible

As mentioned, just after I had woke up at 4:30, I had checked out the latest election stats and by that time, the game was over and Trump had won his long march to the White House. What would he do with his victory I wondered? I had my own doubts and fears about that. Now, out on the bay, alone in the dark on that quiet chilly morning I had some clean air to breath, some hot coffee still in my cup and some time to ponder what the new Trump Presidency might mean.

To me, for sure, it was a sea change in the world. In my own mind, it was a tectonic plate that had shifted and somehow re-oriented all the world. What that meant, where it would lead, really was impossible to say in early morning light of that new day.

So what I fell back on was the campaign promises that I had heard Trump repeat time after time and I tried to speculate where those promises might lead. Now, I know that many of things that I worried about, other people deliberately voted for. With that in mind, here are some of the things that I was worried about:

Tariffs – Having been all my life an importer of goods to the United States, I have always believed that trade is good, not just for me, not just for our company, but for our country and for the whole world. To me the interchange of goods is important in itself and the access to good value products at reasonable prices that would not be available otherwise is also important. I know that trade often results in dislocations of technologies and in the loss of jobs here in the United States. That said, I have always felt that the benefits coming from trade are greater than the harm done by trade.

And here I would like to make one important personal point, in my own particular case, we have never been a manufacturer of goods, so we never closed a factory in order to buy cheaper goods overseas. And that is simply because we never had an actual factory to manufacture things. Rather, we have always imported unique good quality products that simply would not be available in this country otherwise.

By the same token, I know many companies that did have factories in this country, that did move their production overseas and did end up firing American workers. So, first and foremost, I can say that it is desirable to keep as many factories here and to keep as many people working in factories here as possible. That said, I am terrified that raising tariffs on foreign goods will kill existing business without creating new factories and new jobs in this country.

As some of you know, in the first year of the Great Depression, we did institute a wide range of tariffs on foreign goods and that resulted in many other countries instituting a wide range of tariffs on us. This was the Smoot Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 which raised tariffs on over 20,000 different kinds of imported goods. The full results of this act are still debated by economists today, but most economic historians believe the Smoot Hawley Act greatly deepened the worldwide depression, caused a collapse of trade around the world and resulted in millions of people losing their jobs in this country and around the world.

Of course, that was a long time ago and we do live in a different age. I do not believe that history repeats itself exactly but I do believe that things that happened in the past can happen again in some different form in the future.

Now, I know Mr. Trump is thinking to use tariffs as a negotiating tool. But tariffs are a blunt instrument and sometimes the results from an action are different than the results you anticipate.

I will cite Obamacare as an example of this. President Obama and the fact that the outgoing administration anticipated that they would get enough young people signing on to Obamacare to pay for the older people who would also sign on to Obamacare. But they guessed wrong and their numbers were off. Specifically, they got far less young people signing up for Obamacare and far more older people signing up for Obamacare. As one administration official said, it seemed that young people preferred to drink beer rather than sign up for health insurance. The result of this miscalculation was that Obamacare was a financial disaster, that costs for health are rising sharply and that this miscalculation  probably helped Donald Trump get elected President.

I am afraid of the same kind of miscalculation about tariffs. When we announce new tariffs on other countries (after all, how else will they believe us), I am afraid other countries will announce new tariffs on us. That, I think, could lead to a trade war and a collapse of trade around the world. I would like to repeat that in the past this actually happened when we last announced tariffs on other countries in 1930. So there is a precedent for this actually happening.

I also think that tariffs would raise the price of many imported goods coming into the United States. And that could mean that the cost of many, many things we buy goes up… in example, the price of shoes, shirts, coats, cars, food, oil, steel, vegatables, fruit and many, many other things. Having been to China many times, having seen their economy as recently as a few weeks ago, knowing that they too are suffering from many of the same problems we are, I wonder if they will sit meekly by when Mr. Trump announces he is putting tariffs on products coming from China?

Perhaps, China will say, go ahead, make my day! If you do, we will also impose tariffs on products coming from the U.S. And one more thing, maybe, it is time to cash in on those little pieces of paper you call bonds. That’s what I fear. I know this is a fear only, and I also know that we need to wait to see what actually happens.

I would like to report that the day after I went rowing, November 10th, Bloomberg reported that while stocks have risen in the last two days, bonds have sold off sharply and that long-term interest rate of 30 year bonds has gone up dramatically in just the last two days. Those of us who remember the 1970s, probably remember that bonds sold off almost every day for several years throughout the Carter administration and this resulted the prime rate going to 12 and half percent. At that time, people had trouble getting mortgages at 14% to 16% annual interest. Let’s hope that is a part of history that is not repeated.

In the same Bloomberg program talking about declining bonds and rising stocks, Bloomberg interviewed a lawyer from Hogan Lovells.

The lawyer being interviewed was asked what promises could Donald Trump legally make good on. Somewhat to my surprise, the lawyer said with the executive powers that Congress had granted the President, Donald Trump could, without consulting Congress or the Senate, immediately impose tariffs on Mexico, China or any other country he chose of 45% or more. The lawyer went to say that the new President could also cancel Nafta or any other trade agreement presently in place and finally, he could also cancel Obamacare and our treaty with Nato. In short, this lawyer said President Trump could enact many of his promises by the end of January. That would indicate that we should know just how serious President Trump is about his campaign promises pretty soon.

But tariffs, Nafta, Obamacare, Nato are not my only concerns:

The Wall – I know that Donald Trump is great builder and he has built hotels and post offices and skating rinks and apartment buildings in many parts of the U.S. and around the world. So Donald Trump probably knows how to build a wall better than anyone.

That said, I am dubious that Mexico will pay for it, as President elect Trump has promised. I can see Donald announcing 35% or 45% tariffs on Mexican goods and no doubt that will produce some revenue for the US, but if Mexico also institutes tariffs on our American goods going into Mexico, like I-phones, like computers, like American cars, like America steel, like American copper, like American wheat, perhaps the tariffs instituted on both sides will reduce the sales of goods on both sides and perhaps the revenues from the announced tariffs will disappear as imports and exports collapse.

And then there is the little matter of the cost of the wall. Let me try to give you an idea of what that might be. I happen to have a little wooden fence that I need to replace. It is about 30′ long and 4′ high. I recently asked a local builder what he would charge me to replace my 30′ wooden fence. My local contractor said he would do it for $3,000. That was cheap, he assured me. Of course, my 30′ fence is only 4′ high and made of wood. I know for sure that Donald Trump is going to build a really beautiful wall and that wall is going to be at least 30′ high and 1989 miles long and, I am guessing, it will not be made of wood.

So, let’s do a little math: 4′ into 30′ is 7.5 times. So if my wood fence was 30′ high and 30′ long, it would cost, if all other things were equal, $22,500. Now there are 5,280 feet in one mile. That means there are 10,501,920 feet in 1989 miles – I have a powerful calculator that can figure these things out. Are you following me? Now if I then divide 10,501,920 feet by 30 feet, I get 350,064 30′ x 30′ wall sections. And then if I multiply 350,064 by $22,500, I come up with the calculation that it will cost $7,875,000,000 to erect a 30′ high wood fence. Of course, I think Donald Trump would select a different material. And while I know his preferred material is gold, I am guessing in this case the Donald would settle for steel, either powder coated or stainless steel.

Now, I do not know how much more a stainless steel or powder steel powder coated 30′ wall 12″ thick (I am guessing Donald would like it to be at least one foot thick) would cost more than a 30′ high wooden fence. I am gonna say that will cost at least ten times more, making the cost for the beautiful Mexican Wall $78,750,000,000. And when you think about it this really is that much. I mean that is less than the yearly sales of Amazon. That’s doable, isn’t it? Well, yes, but I think we have add a few other costs.

It seems to me that this beautiful wall will need some high tech cameras and lights for surveillance. Let’s say one camera every 300 feet, so if you have a border of 10,501,920 feet, that means you are going to need 35,000 cameras and lights to scan the wall night and day. So let say our President gets a good deal with Amazon or Best Buy and each camera is just $300, including installation. Well, that’s an another $10,500,000 for cameras. That’s still chump change.

But of course, these 35,000 cameras and lights will have to be plugged in which means we will need some electric. Here, our President could go solar (I am not sure that would be his choice, but who knows), but there is an upfront cost for installing solar panels to power 35,000 video cameras and lights. Let’s say that is another $10,000,000. That puts us at $78,795,000,000. That’s still doable.

But someone is going have to look at the video the 35,000 cameras spew out. Presently, we have about 20,000 custom officials patrolling the Mexican border. So lets say we need another 20,000 folks to review the videos that 35,000 cameras spew out and help catch any offenders and let’s say each person costs the government $30,000 a year. Well, that’s another $600,000,000 a year. So now we are getting close to $80,000,000,000 for the first year of the wall. And of course, I am not talking about on going costs for electricity, camera replacement and payroll costs. Those costs would on for as long as the wall is standing.

It is still not big number stateside, but for Mexico? It happens I looked up Mexico’s Gross National Product for 2014. That was a record year. It was $1,294,690,000,000 or a little over a trillion dollars and $80,000,000,000 is only about 6% of their Gross National Product. So, if you believe what Trump says, Mexico is going to be happy to give us 6% of their gross national product. Me, I am worried that Mexico may not pay up and we may get stuck with the $80,000,000,000 cost, not to mention the yearly ongoing cost for maintaining and patrolling our beautiful wall.

Of course, I may must say that my method of calculating the cost of the wall may be flawed, even if it seems pretty solid to me. Whatever, it is a big number and somebody, Mexico or us, will have to pay it.

Tariffs and paying for the wall are only two concerns or I have doubts I have about other things that Trump may do.

I am skeptical he will send 11,000,000 Mexicans back to Mexico, especially if he is also asking Mexico to give us 6% of their gross national product. It seems to me taking back 11,000,000 Mexicans might be kind of expensive. For that matter, gathering them up and just putting them on a bus might be pretty expensive. Let’s take a crack at that. If you gathering up 11,000,000 and 60 people and their stuff fit in a bus, you need 183,333 buses to carry them back to old Mexico. Let’s say is the cost $300 on average to find each illegal Mexican and let say we make a deal with Greyhound Bus to pick up and transport each Mexican for $60 each. That would mean it cost $360. per Mexican to send them back to Mexico. Again, this is only what my father call a guestimate, but if it was correct (and I see no reason why it is not), that would mean that somebody would have to pay $3,960,000,000. Since I do not want to pay this, I am hoping that the Donald can use his deal-making power to get Mexico to cover the 4 billion dollar or so cost.

Thinking about, I am wondering 35 or 45% is enough of a tariff. Maybe, we need 60%.

Then there is the matter of replacing the Obamacare Healthcare System. I can understand that the present system is a true catastrophe, but I am just wondering what we will replace it with? Will more or less people have insurance? Will patients with pre-existing health conditions now have to pay extra for their pre-existing health conditions? In an interview with 60 Minutes, our President Elect has said he try to make sure pre-existing conditions are covered. I am still a little dubious this will actually be practical.

And what about taxes? Will corporate taxes really go down from 35% to 15%? I would love that, especially if I are going to have pay a 35% to 45% to 60% tariff on the goods we import, I am going to need a tax reduction.

I can only hope the Donald is telling us the truth on taxes, because I have the feeling we are going to need help to pay for some other things.

I cannot say if my doubts and fears are realistic. I can only say I have doubts and fears. It certainly is too early to make any prediction of what will actually happen and I do believe he was legitimately elected and we have an obligation to let him take his best shot at fulfilling his promises.

Fortunately, most of my thoughts and doubts and fears, drifted out of my mind as I rowed out into Port Iefferson Harbor. There I was greeted by a new dawn, a bright red sky rising above an all beautiful horizon. The view that stretched out before me was almost enough to make me forget my doubts and fears. You can see the picture below. In the meantime, I leave with an old nursery rhyme:

Row, row your boat,

Gently down the stream,

Merrily, merrily, merrily,

Life is but a dream.

November 9th, 2016, 6:05 am - The Dawn of a New Day is Upon Us. Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning,

November 9th, 2016, 6:05 am – The Dawn of a New Day is Upon Us.
Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning,

 

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My Hospital Visit

This is where I went!

This is where I went!

By Cecil Hoge

A day after returning from a recent trip to Asia, I fainted in the bathroom and managed to smash my right leg in a couple of places. My wife, who was concerned to see me fall and lose consciousness for a minute or so, insisted that she call the doctor. It was my guess that my fainting was a simple case exhaustion after a 9 day trip to Asia and a cold that I had caught, but my wife thought it was best to be prudent.

From there things went downhill fast. She called my doctor who was not available and ended up speaking to his assistant. The assistant said I should go straight to the Emergency Room and get checked for a stroke or a heart attack. Well, I didn’t think I had either, but my wife is a determined woman who believes in the edict Doctor Knows Best. I don’t, but I also know arguing with my wife over such things is a losing game. Hence, in a very short time, I found myself on the way to the emergency room.

On arriving at the ER , the admitting nurse, a sandy-haired and somewhat balding young man, asked about 3 questions and then called a “code orange” situation. That means that I may have had a stroke. I did not think this was necessary, but it certainly made me feel well-attended.

Immediately, I was whisked into the ER holding room to have blood tests, blood pressure, X-rays and, shortly thereafter, a Cat Scan taken. The attention, though not requested, was quite impressive. Nurses rushed around bringing water, taking vials of blood, hooking me up to an IV and presenting me with a turkey sandwich and a nice plastic receptacle to pee in. Multiple doctors and nurses came in to ask my name and birth. I proudly recited both with lightning speed. I knew their intentions were good and it was their job to ask the same questions time after time. And, true to their profession, they asked my name and birth date about 25 times.

It was only after about an hour of various tests and 10 vials of blood being taken that they announced that I would be admitted to the hospital for observation. I tried to argue that this was unjustified. My arguments were listened to respectfully and then denied. They said a Dr. Roth had determined that I should stay the night for observation. According to a nice young doctor lady named, Dr. Cooper, Dr. Roth was an excellent neurologist and also a very nice lady.

The fun did not stop there. They went on to say that I also needed an MRI of my brain and an Echo Cardiogram of my heart. I could see this was going to be a very exciting day. Personally, I would have preferred to stand up, walk out and leave, but several new doctors arrived to tell me what an imprudent thing that would be. At this point, I was comfortably enscounced on a hospital bed and my wife, who had back and knee issues plaguing her, decided to go home for a short break. After about an hour of munching on my turkey sandwich and drinking some water, some guy showed up and rolled my hospital bed to the MRI room.

There I got onto the MRI Table, put on earplugs and a MRI helmet to cover my brain. Soon I found myself inside the glorious machine which made an incredible racket. I tried to imagine that I was listening to some new, atonal guitarist like Slash or Motörhead, although if it was Slash or Motörhead, I am pretty sure they also wore earplugs. Anyway, after 28 minutes of banging, knocking, screeching, grinding, beeps, bells, dongs at the highest possible decibels, I emerged from the tin can, had the earplugs and helmet removed and was told by a trim Korean lady that the agony was over.

Almost immediately, I was whisked out of the MRI room on my roller bed and told the next stop was the Echo Cardiogram room. A young lady came and then rolled me off. It turned out to be a busy day in the Echo Cardiogram Room, so I was rolled off something called the Nuclear Room. There, in a corner behind a curtain, the nice young lady smeared some goo on my chest and took something that looked like a pestle for pummeling garlic, but was not, since it was metal and had an electric wire sticking out of it. Then she pushed the metal pestle against my chest and began to pummel me for the next 20 minutes while looking at a computer screen. She was kind enough after the procedure was finished to say that she saw nothing bad that she could tell. Of course, she said dutifully, the pictures from the Echo Cardiogram would have to be reviewed by a cardiologist.

After that the real excitement began. I was wheeled to my new home…room 314. There I found a gentleman named Orlando in the next bed with his daughter sitting by his side. A curtain separated out two beds and my bed was next to the window while Orlando’s bed was nearest to the door. For a while things went pretty well. I didn’t hear or see Orlando even though he was in the room with me only a few feet away. His daughter seemed to be pretty jovial, asking her father to think of the medicine a nurse was trying to administer as vodka. That seemed work well as long as his daughter was around. However, things went south once she left.

The first thing I noticed was that Orlando had some kind of bowel problem. This became evident as a succession of nurses came to change his clothes and wash him up two or three times. From the smell of it, I judged the bowel problem to be of the solid variety. And I could tell by the offhand comments of the nurses that they were, as is perfectly understandable, getting fed up with the mess up and clean up routine of Orlando.

Pretty soon a special ringer nurse was brought in. At first I thought he might be a relative, but I finally realized he was a late night nurse brought to help out with the more difficult cases. Pretty soon Benny (that was his name) was doing his very best to take care of Orlando. In doing so, Benny noticed I was watching Fox News about the election. While Fox News is not my favored media, I, being just back from Asia, was eager to catch up on all opinions of each station, so I was moving back and forth between Fox and CNN, soaking up their diametrically opposed opinions. I have to say, horrifying or not, the Presidential Election of 2016 is really interesting.

Anyway, Benny, in between trying to calm down Orlando, started to ask me questions about the election. Who did I think would get elected, Benny asked. I said I was afraid that Trump was going to win. How could he win, asked Benny, Trump hates everybody.

Well, I agreed that Trump did seem to hate everybody, but I still said that I felt that he might really win. For a while Benny and I had a nice conversation on the state of the world and for while, things the room were pretty quiet.

Around 7 pm and while Orlando was still relatively well-behaved, the good Dr. Roth, the lady neurologist, showed up to say that she had looked at my Cat Scan and my brain MRI and had found nothing out of the ordinary. She went on to say that she really no idea why the nurse called it a code orange situation because she could see no evidence from the tests results she had seen of a stroke or of brain damage. That was good news to me and we had nice little conversation about what happened, how I fell, what parts of my knee that I bruised and how it is good to check if you have had a stroke. After about 20 minutes of this nice conversation, she drifted out the room on her to other patients, who no doubt had more pressing needs.

A little after the nice lady Dr. Roth left, Orlando decided to up his game, just as Benny and I the beginning to get into a further conversation on politics. Not only was Orlando asking Benny for more cleanings and more changes of clothing, he was beginning to tell Benny that he had not checked into the hospital and it was all a big mistake. I could see that Benny was having a tough time dealing with his new problem child.

But Orlando, who turned out to be very obstreperous 92 year old man, was not content to leave it at that. You would not think that a 92 year old man could be that difficult, but Orlando was not to be underestimated. Pretty soon Orlando was trying bribe Benny to take him to a hotel and claiming he had been kidnapped. Benny bravely tried to reason with Orlando that it was his own family who had put him in the hospital.

But Orlando was not buying that for a minute and pretty soon he calling out loud for the police to come and rescue him. This went on for a good two hours with other nurses coming in and frantically and Benny and the other nurses trying to reason with Orlando. All efforts failed and Orlando kept up cries of “Help” and “Police”. Again, you would be surprised at the strength and persistence of Orlando.

Now, since Orlando was a 92 year old guy, his voice and physical strength was not as great as a 40 year old man. That said it was enough to keep 3 females nurses and Benny frantic with trying to reason with him and trying to restrain him and trying to keep up with his mess ups and clean ups. Finally, in consideration of the fact that I was an innocent victim who just happened to be in the same room, the nurses had a little pow wow and decided to move me to the only empty room on the floor, room 304. I was very grateful because the cries and antics of Orlando were beginning to wear me down.

As I was being wheeled out, I wished Benny good luck.

Benny was not optimistic.

“Oh, no, I am going to die tonight,” he said as I was being I wheeled out of the room.

I found out, just as I was leaving, that Benny was working overtime, so it was probable that Benny had not much sleep.

I left Orlando and Benny to their pain and was rolled off to the relative quiet of room #304. Here, I kind of struck gold because I was the only human in the room. Considering the fact that this was a very busy night in Mather Hospital, another fact that I learned as I was being wheeled away, I was really lucky to have a room of my own.

This is the wall in my room. If you look closely you can see my recorded blood pressure and heartbeat taken at 8:30pm

This is the wall in my new room. If you look closely you can see my recorded blood pressure and heartbeat taken at 8:30pm, after my TV got working again.

Shortly after getting to room #304, the nice nurse who had rolled me over, came to check in on me. I am guessing she was in her late 50s and, after asking her a few questions, I found out she had been working in Mather Hospital for about 20 years. She was concerned to see if I was now comfortable and she checked on how the various hookups to the portable monitor I was wearing, took my blood pressure, pulse and temperature, all of which were normal. She was concerned to see if the TV in my room was working – it was not – and she promised to call the TV company to make sure they got it working.

I complained about the IV that was still in my arm, even if it was no longer connected to anything. My nice nurse said they could take that out because you never if they might have to administer some medication. I didn’t like the idea of having a catheter sticking in my arm, but there seemed to be no way around having it.

The nice nurse went out of her way to apologize for the behavior of Orlando, saying that it must have been stressful listening to Orlando protest his situation. I said that I thought it was probably far more stressful for the nurses, her, Benny and the other two nurses, having to deal with cleaning and changing and restraining and trying to control Orlando.

Sometimes the patients get that way, especially, the elderly. she said. And then she said something exceedingly strange which made me have some sudden and genuine sympathy for Orlando.

“You know in Florida they don’t give colonoscopies to patients over 75. I don’t know why they give prescribe a colonoscopy for patients over 90. You know, he had a bowel prep. So his bowel problem was caused by the bowel prep that he was given. That’s why he had to be changed so many times.”

It was then that I realized that it was kind strange to order a colonoscopy for a 92 year old man. I mean, what was the point? If the test was negative, what would they say? You can go home. If the test was positive, what would they say? You got colon cancer and maybe you will die. If you are already 92, you probably know you do not have many years to live. So, again, I could not help but wonder why Orlando was having a colonoscopy. I can hope there is some logical reason for that.

Anyway, I was grateful to the nurse for being kind enough to come back and check in on me and give me this somewhat strange information on the plight of Orlando.

I mentioned before that my new room was relatively quiet and that is true. By that I mean, I did not have to listen to the croaking cries of Orlando as he endeavored to get released from the hospital. So in that sense, the room was much quieter. However, after a few minutes in my room, I began to really notice all the other sounds and the spectrum of different noises was truly impressive. There bells and beeps and humming sounds coming from both the various machines in my room and the machines just outside my room and just down the hall.

It seems that in a modern day U.S. Hospital all the patients are hooked up to some kind of machine. Now I was relatively free, being only hooked up to a monitor that kept track of my heartbeat, my CO2 content and my blood pressure. And my monitor was relatively quiet. It only beeped and binged a little bit. In my room, was another monitor that seemed to be a general monitor somehow connected to all the other patient rooms. And if a patient pushed the little button to call a nurse, it would start beeping. And if nurse didn’t come, it would start beeping louder and more frantically and if the nurse did not come for a longer time, the decibel level would increase with each minute.

It was then that I realized that my room was really not as a room meant for patients, but rather it was designed as a nurses station. However, on nights where all the rooms on the the hospital floor were fully occupied, this nurses station was occasionally used as a patient’s room. Hence, my good luck in having my own room.

All this probably meant that this particular room might have been somewhat noisier than the other rooms with patients in them. I say somewhat noisier because in truth all the rooms were inherently noisy, mostly because the many patient were all hooked up to different machines that beeped and whistled and hummed and droned and moaned and whined and made noises that the most brilliant digital musician could only dream about.

Now, by this time it was about one o’clock in the morning, and because evening had set in, there were very few sounds of nurses and doctors on the floor. This made the noises from the various medical machines and equipment really loud and really dominant. And while I was trying to go sleep, I tried think think of what that really like. I came up with the idea that trying to sleep in that hospital room was like trying sleep on the inside of a pinball machine while a pinball game was being played.

So imagine, if you can, a man on a hospital bed inside of a pinball machine with the pinball bouncing off of different parts of the pinball field and a very active and enthusiastic pinballer pushing buttons frantically trying to knock the pinball around my bed while the pinball bounced off of different stations, making maximum decibel bell sounds with bings, and dongs and sirens going off. In short, it was impossible to sleep.

This was not improved by the fact that a nurse showed up at 2am and 6am to take my vitals and several more vials of blood. I suppose this what a modern hospital in the U.S. is. I could not help but wonder to whose benefit all this was? Was it to the benefit of the electrical company powering all these beeping and binging and ringing and buzzing machines while happily charging for the needed electricity, or to the benefit of the makers of all these wonderful high tech monitoring machines keeping track of all the vitals of all the patients, or to the benefit of the nurses and doctors who occasionally looked at the data continuously streaming out these machines, or to the benefit the patients whose vitals were being monitored while they trying to get some sleep among all this clamor.

I did not go around floor and ask each patient if they were able to sleep, so I do not know for a fact who got sleep and who did not. I can only say that I think you would have to be in deep coma to get some rest on that hospital floor.

As you might understand, by the time the morning rolled around and sunlight began to flood into my beeping and binging room, I had long made up my mind to get the hell out of there at the earliest opportunity. So when the nurse brought in the tray with the long dead pears in little cup of goo juice, the Raisin Bran cereal with warm skim milk and the decaf tea which tasted like warm oak leaves, I announced to the nurse that I wanted to her to call my doctors and tell them I wanted to get released as soon as possible.

At first the nurse said it was up to the doctors to decide when I would be released and that they might decide they needed a few more days to observe my condition. But I was ready for nurse because I had used my sleepless night to good purpose. I had gone to the trouble of reading through the nice booklet they provided on patient rights and I immediately pointed out that points #11 and #13 permitted me to refuse all hospital services and to be advised by the doctors of all the reasons that was a bad idea and to then leave the hospital. So, I told the nurse, unless the doctors can give me some actual and valid reason not release me, I was determined to be released that very morning.

Now, this may make you think that I was just as much a trouble-maker as the 92 year old Orlando that I mentioned earlier, but no, I was far more diplomatic. I said I really would like my doctors to sign off on this, to say that it was perfectly all right to leave because after all, after taking a bunch of tests, they found nothing wrong.

Anyway, this approach got the attention of my nurse and while she was very much saying doctors know best, she was still sympathetic to my wish to get released. So she went off to consult one of the doctors who was now coming onto the floor to make her rounds. Soon, a nice young Indian or Pakistani lady Doctor (I preferred not guess which country since the two countries seem to hate each other) came in to try to persuade me that this was unwise. First, she tried to persuade me that I had stroke.

No, I said, I have already had a nice visit the night before with the good doctor Roth. She said my Cat Scan and my brain MRI were both normal and showed no evidence of a stroke.

“Hummh,” said the lady doctor, “Well, we are worried you might have had a heart attack.”

“Why?”, I asked, “Did my EKG or Echo Cardiogram show evidence of a heart attack?”

“Well, the EKG was normal, but I did not know you had an EchoCardiagram. I will have to check that out.”

I told the young lady doctor, who I am sure was trying to be a professional and as responsible as possible, that I was pretty sure my EchoCardiogram would be normal if my EKG was. After all, I had no history of heart problems, I get checked every year for heart or other problems, I don’t take medications, I exercise regularly, I have normal blood pressure, heartbeat and temperature. I then went on to say, if the doctors can tell me one good reason to stay in hospital longer or take other tests, I would listen to that, but if all the tests they had so far were normal, after a Cat Scan, a brain MRI, an EKG, EchoCardiogram and God knows how many tests on the 12 vials of blood I had already given, I am going call this fishing expedition at an end and insist upon leaving the hospital.

The good lady doctor was not happy by this, especially when I asked to get the doctor to review all this in the next two hours. She went off shaking her head in dismay. She had, by the way, beautiful black hair and I was only able to guess that she was either Indian or Pakistani and, as mentioned previously, one has to be careful about suggesting either these nationalities since they hate each other with a passion. And of course, she could be some other nationality. Whatever, she seemed to be a fine young doctor lady, who was a little too prudent for my taste, but no doubt well-intentioned.

As luck would have it, the needed doctors to approve my release did show up around 11am and they did come by. They were headed up by the good Dr. Ahktar. Now with a name like that you think he looked like a terrorist from the Middle East. Not this Dr. Ahktar, he looked more like Princeton graduate. Under his white cloak, he wore snappy collegiate sweater vest, spoke the most fluent American and seemed to have a sandy complexion and sandy hair to go along with his All-American look.

He seemed like a truly nice guy, although he did reiterate that they would love check me out a little more. In any case, he did admit it was true that all the tests they conducted were completely normal and there was no real reason to keep me in hospital any longer. In the end, he signed a release and extracted a promise from me to see my regular doctor within four days.

With great relief, I left the hospital, went home to recoup from the beeps and buzzing and ringing and dinging and binging that seemed to inhabit my head for several more days. How anybody can actually rest and recover in a hospital is beyond my understanding. I can only hope that there is good scientific reason for all the machines and all the noises in a hospital.

In the allotted four days, I did schedule an appointment with my regular doctor, Dr. James Kelly. He kindly saw me, asked what happened. When I told him it was his assistant who recommended me to go to the hospital.

“That’s the best thing you could,” he said, “If you come to our office and for some reason do have a stroke, it will probably be too late to help you. You did the right thing.”

Dr. Kelly then took my temperature, my pulse, my blood pressure, listened my heart, looked in my ears and in my mouth.

“Everything looks normal,” he said.

I asked Dr. Kelly to tell me what the blood tests the hospital conducted told him. I had brought along the hospital report that they gave me when I was released.

“Let’s go through that,” said Dr. Kelly, taking a look at the paperwork that I gave him.

He then went through the 25 or so test results listed on the paper. After stating each test, he ended with two words:

“All normal.” The only thing that was not quite normal was cholesterol level.

“This really isn’t pertinent to these these tests, but your cholesterol level is really good – 117 over 56.”

I was glad to hear all of this. I then told Dr. Kelly that I thought my passing out and hitting my knee on the bathroom floor was probably the result of being tired from my trip to Asia, having a cold and taking Contac.

No doubt, that was what it was, said Dr. Kelly. He then went on to volunteer this:

“You know, years ago, when I went to church as a kid, every Sunday, someone would faint in the church. And what did they do? The priest would give whoever fainted some water, tell them to sit down in a pew for 20 minutes and then send them home. That was it. It was a different time.”

That reminded me that I had fainted in church on two separate when I around 14.

“It’s all the lawyers.” Dr. Kelly volunteered, “That’s why the doctors give you all these tests. If there were no lawyers or they just put a cap on liability insurance, they would give you half the tests and you have been out of the hospital in less than two hours.”

This led to a different track. I had come to my own conclusion that giving me all these tests must be pretty expensive. I was thinking $10,000 or $15,000 for the day I was in the hospital and the various tests I was given.

I asked Dr. Kelly what he thought the cost for my visit might be. He did not hesitate to answer.

“$25,000 to $30,000,” he said, “And you know, it goes on all day long, every day, people coming to the ER, getting all sorts of tests done, most them just because the doctors know if they do not prescribe the tests, they will be sued by the lawyers. The system is broken and I don’t see it getting fixed.”

I left the good doctor Kelly on that note. I must say this experience, both the visit to the hospital and my talk with Doctor Kelly set me to thinking.

As far as I can tell Obamacare or whatever system we put in place of it, just does not have a chance to ever be reasonable in cost. Nor is it likely to ever offer patients the best possible service. Our system almost seems setup to subvert that from happening.

I can say without question that I think it was important to check out what happened to me. It is no stretch of imagination to think that I might have had stroke or even a heart attack, especially for a man of my present age (74). So clearly it is important to check out some health event and see if it is serious. And certainly doing this without questioning and as fast as possible, is also equally important.

That said, the system a patient is confronted with today is clearly vastly expensive and vastly over-protective. There must be, there should be, a better and less expensive way to quickly and quietly determine if someone is having a stroke or a heart attack without the fear of thousands of lawyers suing for and against what happens or what did not happen. It is truly a broken system.

One can only hope a better way is found forward in the future.

 

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Hoge’s Horehound Honey

This is a Healthy Looking Customer of my Great, Great Grandfather

This is a Healthy Looking Customer of my Great, Great Grandfather

By Cecil Hoge

My father told me that his great grandfather, one William Hoge, sold honey in England. I never paid much attention to this story until one day my wife came across some information about that business. She found it on the internet. It seems that nothing ever dies, it just goes to the internet. There she found reproductions of some old ads from my great, great grandfather’s business that he ran in the late 1800s.

It turns out that he must have been a great marketing expert of the time because here it is almost 150 years later and somehow reproductions of his advertising efforts are on the internet. In looking at the poster shown above and the ad shown below, a couple of things are evident. He seems to have believed deeply in his product. He talks about his horehound honey in the most glowing terms.

This is an early testimonial ad of my great, great grandfather from the late 1800s

This is an early ad of my great, great grandfather with testimonials from the late 1800s

In the beginning of the advertisement above, my great, great grandfather talks about the “Bee Pasturage.” I gather that he got his honey from California, which at the time must have been an ideal place to harvest certain kinds of of honey. He starts in his advertisement by explaining what a wonderful location California is for bee cultivation:

“New countries, where the natural luxuriance of plants is not checked by the grazing of domestic animals, are particularly favorable to bee culture, and when Hoge first visited California, he found it one sweet bee-garden throughout its entire length, north and south, and all across from the snowy Sierra to the ocean.”

Today if you visited those same areas, I am pretty sure you will find things have changed, that the entire length of California is no longer “one sweet bee-garden”. But I guess when my great, great grandfather first visited California it truly was.

Listen to my great, great grandfather’s description of what must have been the pure and pristine wilderness of California at the time –

“Wherever a bee might fly within the bounds of the virgin wilderness – throughout the forest, along the banks of the river, along the bluffs and headlands fronting the sea, over valley and plain, and deep leafy glen, or far up the piney slopes of the mountains, throughout every belt and section of climate – bee-flowers bloomed in lavish abundance.”

I can only wish it were so today. I will grant there are some areas of California that probably still fit this description.

My great, great grandfather goes on to wax even more poetic –

“During the months of March, April and May, what is known as the bee belt of Southern California is one smooth continuous bed of honey-bloom, so marvelously rich that walking from one end to the other, a distance of more than four hundred miles, your feet press more than one hundred flowers at every step.”

Here again, I think William Hoge might be surprised by the same stretch of territory today. I would think he would have to walk over many highways and streets and parking lots to get to any places where he crushed one hundred flowers with every step. But one hundred and fifty years ago, it must have been something like that, before the discovery of oil, before Hollywood, before vast housing constructions, before super malls, before high rise buildings, before vast warehouses and factories feeding and servicing the needs of more than twenty million people presently residing in California.

But my great, great grandfather’s description of California bee country in the 1870s does not stop there –

“Extending far out in the vast prairie, its unbroken bosom is often found to be one perpetual carpet of horehound flowers, lasting from spring until autumn. All the seasons are warm and temperate, so that honey never ceases to flow from this plant, which yields a profusion of blossoms almost unequalled in the vegetable kingdom. We can judge of their luxuriance, when there grows upon a slender unobtrusive little bush upwards of 3000 blossoms five-eights of an inch in diameter. Each of these are reservoirs that yield them of a wonderful remedy in the world for the cure of coughs, sore throats, sore lungs, & c. – horehound honey. These miniature laboratories stamp with faultless certainty this honey with a color and flavor peculiar to itself.”

William Hoge then ends his love poem to his honey with the following:

“The work of the honey-bee is to gather the sweet treasure so divinely prepared, and bear it off, saying to suffering humanity, “Eat! It is the soul of the Blossom.”

I have written many an advertisement in my time, but I am amazed by the beauty and majesty of my great, great grandfather’s advertising copy.

This is a copy of another ad by my great, great grandfather in the November, 1884 issue of Harper's Magazine

This is a copy of another ad by my great, great grandfather in the November, 1884 issue of Harper’s Magazine

Not only do the old poster reproductions for Hoge’s Horehound Honey, like the one at the beginning of this article and just above, show healthy people endorsing his products, his testimonial ads would go on, after romancing the benefits of bee culture, to talk about the health benefits that his horehound honey brings to opera singers, actors, statesmen, clergymen and everyday people. Citing the health benefits his product brings, these testimonials must have been powerful persuasion for those days. Here a few examples:

The ad relates that the Lord Mayor of London had purchased 6 jars of Hoge’s Horehound Honey, which had been “well-recommended to him.”

But that is only the beginning of many praises from customers. A Prima Donna of the Day, one Marie Rose-Mapleson, is quoted as saying, in the stilted lingo of the day:

“Gentlemen, I have much pleasure in stating that I consider your “Horehound Honey” the most wonderful remedy I have ever tried, possessing properties which are nothing short of marvelous, for the cure of affections of the throat and chest. I shall never be without a bottle of Horehound Honey.”

Now that is a testimonial. I am not quite sure what affections of the throat and chest are, but whatever the are, they seemed to go away with some of my great, great grandfather’s honey. And if you look closely at the first picture above, you will see that the smiling lady  (whose name is E. Darren) has written in her own handwriting that considers Hoge’s Horehound Honey to be an excellent cure for hoarseness.

Then there is the testimony of one Louise Liebert who states,

“Dear Sirs, I have the great pleasure in bearing testimony to the excellence of your “Horehound Honey” for the throat and the voice. I have used, and use it now at intervals, as I found it, for my voice, of great value, and therefore, I can recommend it from my own experience, especially to singers.”

But the the good grades just keep coming in. A Geo. M. Smith states,

“I was troubled for a long time with a bad cough, which I feared was becoming chronic. I used your “Horehound Honey” and gave it a fair trial. I am happy to be able to tell you that it quite relieved me, and I recommend it as a certain cure.”

Then there is the further words of one G.F. Black,

“Having suffered for many years with irritation of the throat and chest, I never found any remedy to relieve the irritation until I purchased a bottle of your “Horehound Honey,” which I did a few days since. I want to inform you it had a wonderful soothing effect, affording relief at once. Please send me one dozen bottles and oblige yours truly.”

Now I come from a long family line of advertising men. My grandfather, Huber Hoge, had his own advertising company, called Huber Hoge Advertising, founded in 1919 in New York City. My father continued this tradition and had his own advertising agency called Huber Hoge and Sons Advertising at 699 Madison Avenue late forties and early fifties. And my brother and I still continue to produce advertising in many different forms…print ads, videos, banner ads, Google Adwords, catalogs, etc. all of that said, it seems my great, great grandfather was ahead of us all already in the marketing world of the 1880s.

My father was a man who knew the value of marketing. In his time, he sold an amazing array of products, from ladies dress forms to fishing lures, to dance lessons, to pocket adding machines, to live roses you could plant in your garden. To promote fishing lures, he developed a tank with water in it. It had a little motor on top that dragged a fishing lure around in a circle. That showed the swimming action of the lure. That worked so well he increased the number of displays to 3 tanks with water and 3 little motors dragging around 3 little fishing lures, each showing the swimming action of each fishing lure. That worked so well, that he developed a display with 10 tanks with water and 10 motors dragging around 10 fishing lures.

And that worked really well for some time. He sold over 3,000 of these huge displays – it took up over 10′ of space in fishing or department store and it sold hundred of thousands of lures. Well, everything has its rise and fall and that was also true of my father’s 10 Tank Display. It seemed it had one little flaw – two, if you count the people tending to the upkeep of the displays. The one flaw was that the water tended to become green over time and the lures tended to disappear as algae formed in the tank. Flaw number two was the humans in each store who looked on complacently while the great marketing display, first sold thousands of lures and then gradually turned cloudy and green, until at last all that could be seen was dark green water and ominous looking blob running around in an endless circle. Ah, the best dream of mice and men fail on the smallest details.

DYNAMITE - Handle As Though - That did the trick!

DYNAMITE in LARGE TYPE – Handle As Though in tiny type  – That did the trick!

Speaking of the best laid plans of mice and men, my great, great grandfather apparently had some issue with the Long Shore men of London unloading his Horehound Honey from California. Apparently, the gentlemen at the port were manhandling his honeycombs. As usual, my great, great grandfather came up with an unusual solution. He had his honeycombs packed in wooden boxes, which looked just like the boxes containing dynamite and he marked his boxes in big letters with the word “DYNAMITE”. In small, almost unreadable type below the word “DYNAMITE” he added the words: “Handle as Though”. That apparently solved his damage problem and thereafter his honeycombs arrived from the virgin forests of California in absolutely pristine condition. It takes an unusual solution to solve a usual problem.

Speaking of unusual solutions, my father told me about a unique marketing system my great, great grandfather developed in the 1880s. It seemed his poster and testimonial ads were not quite delivering the growth and sales he had hoped so he struck on a brilliant new marketing system. That was to hire 19 ball headed guys. Each of these guys had one letter painted on their head. So guy number one had an H. Guy number two had an O. Guy number three had a G. And Guy number four had an E. Guy number five had an ‘S. This meant the first five guys spelt the name HOGE’S. And the other fourteen guys had fourteen other letters painted on their heads and when all 19 bald headed guys put their heads together and leaned forward, they spelt HOGE’S HOREHOUND  HONEY.

That still does not tell you what William Hoge did with the 19 guys with 19 letters painted on their bald heads. So here is how my great, great grandfather’s marketing program worked. It seemed in London in the 1880s many of the major theaters were located relatively close to each other. So my great, great grandfather made a deal with several of the local theaters and sent these 19 bald-headed guys around to each of these theaters. The 19 guys would arrive just before the theater curtain was going up, march up on stage, stand is a designated line-up, and then, while the orchestra played some tulmultuous introductory music and announcer said the following:

“Ladies and gentlemen, may we present you for consideration HOGE’S HOREHOUND HONEY.”

At that moment the 19 bald-headed guys would lean their heads forwards an expose the 19 letters painted on their heads.

HOGE’ HOREHOUND HONEY – It must been quite a sight and I would guess it drew a few oohs and aahs.

After the 19 guys did their performance art at one theater, they would walk down the block and go into the next theater and repeat the performance. I do not know how many theaters they did this in, but I gather it was several each night.

I have no statistics on my great, great grandfather’s honey sales resulting from his bald-headed marketing program. I gather for a while his honey enjoyed great fortune and fame and then, like many things, eventually got taken over and merged into a larger food marketing company. I am thinking that the endless fields of bee blossoms once covering California from the north to south from the sea to the mountains have now been mostly over-run by shopping malls, parking lots, city centers, factories, thruways, housing developments, oil rigs and water parks.

I am sure there are still places in California, rural and pristine, where it is true that a man cannot walk a step without crushing a hundred bee flowers, but I am guessing they are pretty rare. I also know if it is true that there is a special heaven for great marketers of the past, my great, great grandfather is there reclining on a lounge chair with a cool tall drink and the buzzing of bees and blooming fragrant flowers all around him.

All of this makes me want to get a bottle of Hoge’s Horehound Honey. If anybody knows where I can find one, please let me know.

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On The Deceptive Beauty of our Waterways

BeautifulWaterway

View of Stony Brook Harbor

By Cecil Hoge

The waterways within 10 miles of my house are supremely beautiful. Above you will see a picture of the back bay of Stony Brook Harbor. That waterway is very scenic, with intricate marsh pathways wending off in different directions. Because it is shallow, tidal and heavily reeded with hardy saltwater grasses sticking out of the water, it is not suited for big motorboats dragging towables or knee boarders or water skiers. It is therefore ideal for kayaks and standup paddleboards, especially if you wish to paddle over quiet, scenic waterways without having to hear the sound of outboard motors or negotiate the wake of big motorboats.

If you drive around Dyke Road to get to my house in Strong’s Neck and you happen to look to the right out at the bay as you go by, you will probably also be struck by the great beauty of that little bay, especially if you look at a section that appears to have no houses. In the summer, with the surrounding deciduous trees fully foliated in luscious green, the shimmering summer light sparkling off of tiny waves and gentle summer breeze flitting across the surface of the blue/green water, it can be a sight to behold. A wonderful aspect of the deciduous trees and foliage surrounding the bay is that the surrounding houses, which are so visible and prominent in winter when there are no leaves and no green foliage, almost disappear and blend in with the green trees and foliage.

With Summer Foliage One Would Almost Think Your Are In A Remote Wilderness

With Summer Foliage One Would Almost Think You Are In A Remote Wilderness

If, however, you drive on the same Dyke Road to my house and you look out over the same bay and the tide happens to be low (it empties completely twice a day for four hours at a time), you may notice something else that you may wonder at. And that will be a green cover to the mud bottom of the bay. This too is scenic in its own way and no doubt many an onlooker is equally at ease with that visage. This is green algae growing on the bottom of the bay.

View from my house at low tide

View from my house at low tide – the green algae extends to the other side of the bay

And if,  you paddle or row on a daily basis as I do, you will note that the appearance of the water changes daily and that is often quite different than the view from afar. I happen to live on a small cove that is at the end of Little Bay. As such, it is the last place that the tide and water arrive. Because of this, much of what is laying on the surface of the bay is picked and pushed into my tiny cove. This view, up close, can be unsettling. Often one sees a kind of oily brown scum covering the surface of the water with brown, suspicious glutinous spots and large green blobs of algae.

And when I go paddling, I often find the arc of my paddle or oars being slowed by globs of algae. This was not always the case. When I first start paddling or rowing on my little bay, I did not see algae or hit algae with my paddle or oar. Thirty years ago the waters were clear of algae and while not crystal clear, they were usually clean enough to see the bottom of the bay, even when the 7 to 9 foot tide was fully in.

Another difference that I have noticed over the last 30 years is the steady decline in the number of fish, crabs and minnows that I see each time I go for a paddle or a row. Years ago, the bay I am on was teeming with fish, crabs and minnows. In the spring, male horseshoe crabs would appear, mate with female horseshoe crabs and then die, as is their fate, after mating. This often meant that the bay had floating corpses of horseshoe crabs. And almost always when you went in shallow areas of our bay, you would see living horseshoe crabs working their way over the bottom.

Striped bass would also come into our bay in May and June and sometimes you would see them jumping and splashing everywhere in the bay. In the summer, if you were paddling you would see blue shell crabs swimming in front and behind you. In the late summer, the bay would become crowded with snappers (baby bluefish), jumping and splashing everywhere in the bay. Today none of that happens, although I will admit to seeing a few horseshoe crabs every now and then.

In my cove, in the spring and summer, turtles come in and you can see their heads sticking just above the water. You can hear them plopping their bodies off of the dock or a log into the water when I arrive. And in truth, I have to admit the turtles do show up and they have been present even this summer. By the way, in honor of these turtles, I have named my house Turtle Cove. So not all is in decline.

This summer (2016), I have noticed something new that I do not remember ever seeing. And that is dark reddish brown areas of water as I paddle along. These areas can be quite 75 by 100 feet and they seem to be in my bay, Little Bay, and in Setauket Bay. The areas of reddish brown water appear as you paddle along, with the water turning from a murky dark blue to a reddish dark brown. It is as if you have just paddled across a different waterway where the color of the water is strikingly different. I don’t know what causes this, but I am pretty sure it is not natural. These areas seem to be in different parts of the two bays, so as you paddle along, you find yourself paddling in water that turns from muddy blue to muddy, dark reddish brown. Whatever it is, I do not think it is a sign of healthy bay water.

If you read some of the histories of Long Island, you will find references to flocks of birds flying overhead and darkening the sky for 20 and 30 minutes at a time, to the extent it almost becomes pitch black outside on a sunny day. We still are blessed with many birds…swans, Canada geese, great white herons, great blue herons, egrets, kingfish, loons, ducks and cormorants line the four bays of Port Jefferson Harbor and if they are not there in their previous numbers, they are still there in all parts of the bay. And no doubt they would not be present if there were not some fish and some vegetation to feed on.

There was a local historian named Kate Strong who was alive when we first moved to Strong’s Neck and she wrote from 1937 to 1976 a series of stories about Long Island called Tales of Old Long Island. I read some of those tales and I remember one story where the local residents were complaining about the terrible swimming conditions in Setauket Bay. Apparently, Setauket Bay and the other bays forming Port Jefferson Harbor were infested with lobsters. Not only were these creatures a severe danger to the toes and fingers of local residents, but apparently these creatures served no useful purpose other than being chopped up and used as fish bait. Apparently, the habit of cooking lobsters and considering them to be a delicacy was to take place in the future.

Today our bays are no longer infested with useless lobsters. Each of the last ten years has brought more vegetation, more algae and more murkiness to my little cove and to the interconnected bays of Port Jefferson Harbor. And in each of the last years, I have seen less fish, less crabs and no lobsters. Part of this may be due to a simple fact of declining visibility. Today the waters of our bays are far murkier than they once were. Often when paddling or rowing it is impossible to see my paddle or oar blade even when it just 5″ or 10″ below the surface of the water.

Look closely and you may see my oar just below the surface of the water - It is almost a good day.

Look closely and you may see my oar just below the surface of the water – It is almost a good day.

The waters that lead up to my house were never truly clear and pristine as long as I have lived here. The complex of bays that form Port Jefferson Harbor consists of Conscience Bay, Port Jefferson Bay, Setauket Bay and Little Bay, the bay that my house is situated on. These bays have always been dirtier than the waters in Long Island Sound, just outside the harbor and its connected bays. Over 30 years ago, it was reported that Stony Brook University was dumping raw sewage directly into Port Jefferson Bay and no doubt this fact has continually compromised the quality of the water.

It is my understanding that this sewage is now treated and that treated sewage, not raw sewage, is being pumped into Port Jefferson Harbor. Perhaps, this is creating the reddish brown areas that I am came across recently. It is also my understanding that Stony Brook University had planned to run the treated sewage pipe out into Long Island Sound so sewage, treated or untreated, was being dumped directly into Long Island Sound and not being dumped directly into Port Jefferson Harbor. As far as I know, this has not been done and treated sewage from Stony Brook University is still being pumped daily into Port Jefferson Harbor.

Further complicating the water quality situation of the Port Jefferson waterways is the presence of an oil burning electrical plant in Port Jefferson Harbor. This electrical plant is a large source of air-borne pollution, emitting thousands of tons of soot and chemicals each year into the air according to an article in a local newspaper that appeared some years ago. No doubt some of the soot, the gases and the chemical particles coming from the plant fall back down onto the houses and into the waterways surrounding the Port Jefferson/Setauket area. So, it is fair to say, that I have always known that our waterways were tainted and comprised for at least the last 30 years.

That said, the water quality of our bays has gotten progressively worse despite persistent reports in the local press that it would soon get far better. About 10 years ago, widespread algae has begun to appear. First in little and far between clumps and later in denser and heavier clumps all throughout the 4 bays that comprise Port Jefferson Harbor. As mentioned, this most conspicuously evident at low tide in my bay when you can clearly see green algae growth covering most of the bay. In the spring and early summer, algae gathers in big clumps and floats on the surface of bay. As the summer continues and the various Mastercrafts and other high power ski boats make their rounds around Little Bay, the dense clumps of algae tend to get chopped up into smaller pieces and are dispersed throughout the four bays. Each spring, despite being chopped into little bits by large boats used to tow water skiers, tubers and kneeboarders, the clumps of algae seem to get bigger and denser and spread farther throughout the bays.

I do not know if algae is as great a problem in Stony Brook and Mt. Sinai harbors. Certainly, I can see evidence of algae in these bays at low tide times. These two harbors are just a few miles east and west of Port Jefferson Harbor. My belief is that Stony Brook and Mt. Sinai waterways are basically cleaner and healthier waterways. This is probably because there are fewer houses surrounding those waterways, because they do not have treated sewage being dumped into them and because they have less pollution from the National Grid electrical plant in Port Jefferson. All of that said, all the waterways surrounding Long Island Sound, whether on Long Island or in Connecticut, suffer from various forms of pollution and the two culprits that I just pointed out are by no means a complete list of all the problems inflicting damage on the water quality of my local bays.

When the press writes about the problem of pollution of Long Island waterways, they like to blame one or two causes, although generally they do not usually mention the two causes I just mentioned above. A very popular culprit to blame these days is nitrates coming from our cesspools. I have no doubt this is also one of the contributing causes of pollution in our waterways. Recently, I read an article in a local paper citing the apparent fact there are some 432,000 cesspools in Suffolk County alone. The paper was suggesting that all the cesspools need to be rebuilt so nitrates do not seep into the ground. And I have no doubt rebuilding and replacing all the cesspools in Suffolk County if properly outfitted with devices to eliminate nitrates would help reduce nitrates. The paper said this could be done for a cost of about $8,500,000,000.

Apparently, some of our local legislators are very enthusiast about this solution and I have no doubt why. Eight and half billion dollars is a pretty good contract for somebody and I am guessing it might allow a buck or two to come back to some people who might be influential in  requiring that all cesspools in Suffolk County to be rebuilt and replaced. And while I have no doubt this would prove to be some very good business for some people, I am guessing that it will not solve the total problem of pollution in our waterways. For one thing, replacing all the cesspools in Suffolk County would not reduce the pollution from Stony Brook University dumping treated sewage into Port Jefferson Harbor or from soot and chemicals falling from the sky from the Port Jefferson Electrical plant.

And even if you solved all three of these problems, there are other causes also contributing to the pollution of our waterways. I will cite a few other factors contributing to the problem of pollution…fertilizer and insecticides from homes and farms, gas and oils from automobiles driving down our roads, oil and gas seeping from gas stations and oil storage facilities into the ground water, various forms of pollution seeping into our ground water from our local factories and local businesses. It is not necessary to name names, whether it be bus companies parking buses, some of which drip oil and gas onto the parking lot, whether it be certain chemical companies producing some by products that somehow get into the groundwater, the fact is that eventually any and all chemicals that get dumped onto or fall onto the ground flow into our ponds, our lakes, our rivers, our bays and, eventually, into our ocean.

In short, I think a good case could made that there are dozens, if not hundreds of sources of pollution affecting our waterways. And in truth, this is only a natural effect of putting several million people on an island and letting them go about their business in all the ways that people go about there business.

This the Melville Mill Pond in Setauket - once upon a time is was clear of algae. In the last two years it has become quite literally clogged with algae.

This the Melville Mill Pond in Setauket – once upon a time it was clear of algae. In the last two years it has become quite literally clogged with algae. Shall we change the name to Green Pond?

I would like to cite another local example of what is happening to our waterways. Above you will see what used to be called the Melville Mill Pond. As you can see, it is now completely covered with a bright green algae. In a way, it is still beautiful. The DayGlo green color of the algae blends nicely with the green foliage and the blue sky, so you might even argue that it is still beautiful and scenic.

What I think is kind of strange is that this is a park that people come to walk around and take pictures of each other posing by this pond. In the summer, when many weddings take place, you will see wedding parties, brides and grooms, posing by this little pond, now brightly colored with an almost luminous DayGlo green color. I wonder what they think? Do they think this is what a pond is supposed look like? Do they remember seeing this pond when it was not covered with bright green algae? Surely some of the older people must remember what it originally looked like when swans and ducks and herons went there, when local fisherman used to try their luck fishing for trout and other freshwater fish that used to be in the pond.

I would guess that whatever fish there used to be there are now gone and this little waterway now officially close to dead.

If you go to the website for the Frank Melville Memorial Park, there will mention of the fact that the pond is dying and choked with algae. According to the website, a group of experts has been appointed and they are studying the problem. In the meantime, there is an opportunity to become a friend of the park on Facebook. Well, I hope the experts come to a conclusion soon because I think time is not our their side. I would modestly suggest that a simple, but drastic solution to this problem, would to get some people in a few small boats and literally rake off the algae once or twice a year. I am no expert, but I guessing this drastic solution would alleviate the problem while the experts debate on the best long-term solution to the problem.

I cite these examples of my bay and the local pond because it is clear to me that our waterways are in deep trouble. At the same time, it is also clear to me that not many people are concerned about this problem – I cite the fact of people walking around Melville Pond Park as an example of that. Surely some of the people know what they are looking at.

And I suppose there are many good reasons why this is not a priority in all our lives. Most of us have enough difficulty in just in surviving…getting by day by day, meeting our bills, trying to get the kids into good schools, trying to pay our mortgages and taxes. And while I may point out these problems with our waterways, I cannot in truth say that I am doing anything myself to resolve them. And there is one last point, which is the point I made at the beginning of this article, when we drive around the North Shore in summer, everything is green and scenic, and even ponds clogged with algae look kind of beautiful in there own way.

The reason I bring up this issue is that while it is obviously a local problem here on Long Island, I believe it is also a problem all across this country. Recently, I returned from Orlando, Florida. This year, Florida suffered from some severe algae and outbreaks of red and brown tides n both the east and west coast of Florida. Coming into Orlando by air, one can see the green algae covering lakes and ponds in and around Orlando. This is clearly visible by air. In speaking to some fishermen who were recently fishing on the Gulf Coast side of Florida, they described the red tide that was plaguing that coast as a thick, poisonous goo that covered the bay waters and made fishing nearly impossible. Moreover, it was emitting a toxic gas that actually stung the eyes and made it hard to breath.

It really does not matter what part of the country you go to, whether it be an inland pond or lake, a white water river, a large reservoir, many parts of the country, our waterways suffer to a greater or lesser degree reduced water quality and increased forms of pollution. In many cases, this has had a dramatic effect on the fish stocks in the affected waterways. I mention this because fish is a staple food in the human diet. We are likely to miss it, if it is no longer available.

So the big question comes is what do we do about this situation? Do we ignore it or do we wait for someone to solve this problem or do we allow some politician to require the replacement of all our cesspools, even though that will solve only one part of the real problem?

I would like to mention that while I can visibly see the deterioration of our waterways and while I can point to many visible and tangible evidences of the decline of our waterways, I do not believe this situation is unsolvable or hopeless. There are, in fact, many instances where we have turned around fish declines and reduced greatly the pollution facing some waterways. I would like mention a few notable cases. In the Northeast, where ten years ago the striped bass population had declined severely, by instituting a cap on the number of fish that can be harvested per angler and enacting rules against dumping into the oceans and Long Island Sound, the striped bass population has come back in a big way and the fishery is far healthier than it has been in the last 30 years.

In another rather curious example of how waterways and fisheries can come back, in Lake Erie and Ontario where the waters had suffered from chemicals been dumped into these lakes, where algae had become common and where there was great concern that zebra clams would get into the waterways and clog up the harbors and halt the workings of dams and electrical plants, the zebra clams did succeed in getting the waterways and did expand and become endemic throughout both lakes. What was the result: strangely those two lakes became far cleaner and the fish populations, which had been in severe decline, came back and began to flourish once again. Why? Because it turns out that zebra clams filter water faster than almost any kind of shellfish and where their populations explode, their ability to clean the water also explodes. And today, the fishing is better in those two lakes than it has been in the last forty years and the lakes are far cleaner. Go figure.

In the Delaware River, where that river had been the dumping ground of various chemical and industrial factories built up along the river, new environmental rules greatly reduced the number and quantity of chemicals dumped into that river and today many parts of Deleware River are far cleaner than they have been in over 50 years. In fact, trout fishing, which had been almost eliminated in parts of the Delaware, is today also better than it has been in 50 years in many areas.

The lesson in citing these examples is that waterways can get better, just as they can get worse, fisheries can get better, just as they can collapse, new species can alter and improve the health of a waterway, just as some species or life forms, such as algae, can destroy a waterway.

My belief is, if we are to make real progress about this problem, we will have to delevop dozens and possibly hundreds of solutions to it, not just one or two. I do not think there is one silver bullet that will solve all the problems facing our waterways, but I do think a wide variety of different approaches and solutions can, when taken together, greatly improve these problems. I would also like to say that whatever the solutions they will have to be applied on a local bay by bay, river by river, pond by pond, waterway by waterway basis. Why? Because each waterway is different and each waterway may have to be addressed differently to solve their specific problems.

I would like to suggest some partial solutions to the waterways of Port Jefferson Harbor. Certainly, I think we will need to restrict and reduce the amount of chemicals being dumped into those waterways. In a number of cases, this has already been done, with rules    requiring 4-stroke motors and rules outlawing and banning certain chemicals. I am guessing that more has to be done in a variety of ways. New types of chemicals for washing clothes, for cleaning floors, for fertilizing gardens and farms, for killing insects have to be developed that are less toxic and less harmful to the environment.

And yes, better cesspools have to developed that reduce the seepage of all the chemicals we put into waters, whether from our homes, our factories or from our farms. I doubt it is practical or possible to mandate the replacement of all our cesspools, but it is probably practical to mandate that new cesspools have new controls on them and as old cesspools have to be replaced, to replace them with more efficient cesspools that better contain all waste materials we put into them.

I think towns surrounding the bays of Port Jefferson, should take an active role in re-introducing oysters and clams and other shellfish that can clean our waterways. The fact that clams and oysters and other shellfish naturally filter and cleanse our waters should be artificially stimulated, meaning we need active programs that plant and tend to the introduction and cultivation of shellfish in our waterways. I would like to cite the fact that at one time the Great South Bay provided 75% of all the clams served in restaurants in America. I would like to cite the fact that during the 1800s and the early 1900s there were over 10,000 oyster bars in New York City alone. Simply reintroducing the shellfish that were in our bays and waterways could go a long way to cleaning up our waterways.

Unfortunately, I believe it probably goes beyond just planting oyster and clam seed beds. Those oysters and clams will have to be tended to and active aquaculture farms will need to be set up. This probably means setting aside in our waterways areas where this is actively done and setting up a system to tend and monitor the development of shellfish.

I would like to suggest a controversial concept which I think could help the specific waterways of Port Jefferson. At the present time, these waterways have only one inlet to Long Island Sound, I think if one or two additional inlets were created it would allow the waterways of Port Jefferson Harbor to better clean themselves. I am sure that there will be homeowners who will be concerned that these same inlets could let in more water during hurricanes and storms. Probably so, but I believe in the long run it would be healthier for our waterways of Port Jefferson to have two or three inlets, rather than just one.

Sometimes, this kind of solution is provided by Mother Nature herself. On the South Shore of Long Island, a new inlet was opened up a few years ago, courtesy of Hurricane Sandy. In the case of Port Jefferson Harbor, I think it would take a really large and violent hurricane. I would prefer a man made solution.

I would like to suggest another controversial idea that could better clean the four bays that comprise Port Jefferson Harbor. At present, Strong’s Neck is a peninsula of land sticking out between Little Bay and Conscience Bay. If a water passageway was cut through from Little Bay to Conscience Bay and a small bridge was built to allow homeowners to get to their homes on Strong’s Neck, I believe the both Little Bay and Conscience Bay could better clean themselves and all the waterways of Port Jefferson Harbor would be cleaner and healthier.

I also think think selective dredging could help our waterways to better better clean themselves and better allow clams, oysters, crabs and fish to thrive in our waterways. Dredging, of course, is a dirty word and no doubt the process of dredging poses potential harm to the waterways it is being done in. An important concern is where the dredged material is being dumped. At this moment, the State of New York is threatening to sue the State for Connecticutt because Connecticutt wants to dredge its harbors and rivers and dump the dredged material into Long Island Sound for the next 30 years. It is believed, probably correctly, that if dredged materials were dumped into Long Island Sound for the next 30 years, it would do great harm to Long Island Sound.

I do not know what the proper solution to the dredging problem is, but it seems clear that all of our waterways tend to silt up over time and these silt deposits also tend to contain chemicals of all kinds. I am thinking some creative solution needs to be brought to this problem, such as taking the dredged material and creating some kind new kind of cement with it. Or maybe we can dump some of the dredged material on certain selected landfill  areas and create a new ski resort or a water park or something else unique and beneficial.

In this vein, I would like to turn to the problem of algae. I understand that in France they are making certain kinds perfume from algae. I do not know what is in our algae, but I am guessing it is useful for something. Maybe, it can be made into a new kind of less toxic fertilizer, maybe it can be used to make a new kind of concrete, maybe it can be made into a new kind of super food. I do not know, but I am guessing it can be used and made into something.

If so, then algae could be harvested once or twice a year and the gathered material made into something useful and then maybe our waterways would clearer and the green pond that I showed picture of might become a clear and open pond teaming with fish and frogs and turtles and and birds and other wildlife once again. I suppose reading this, it might seem like a wild and impossible idea, but algae is a form of life and I think we may be better able to re-purpose it than to just let it cover our pond, lakes and bays.

You might ask why am I taking the trouble to make what may seem like rediculous suggestions. I am thinking we live on an island. I am thinking in the not so distant past we have lost electrical power for various periods of time, in storms, in blackouts, in hurricanes. In the past, we have never lost power for much more than two weeks, but as little as three years ago, we all saw what damage a storm like Sandy could do. And while that storm did quite a bit of damage, it should also be recognized that a full blown hurricane, if it was ever to hit us head-on on an incoming tide might do a great deal more damage.

And of course, that is only one threat we might face in the future. We all remember when the World Trade Center buildings came down. We all have heard of the danger of a dirty bombs. What if, for example, Long Island lost power and access by car and truck to Long Island was not possible for an extended period. What would happen? There are, at last count, something over 3,000,000 people on Long Island. What if all 3,000,000 people had no power, not for a few days, but for a few months? What if there was no access on or off Long Island for an extended period of time?

My guess is that people might really miss the fish, the shellfish, the crabs that they are already missing. At that time, they may wish they paid a little more attention to the deceptive beauty of our waterways and had done something to restore the health of the fisheries that used to surround us.

UPDATE 9/22/16 – “State to fund Setauket Harbor Improvements”

That is the headline from a September article in the The Village Times Herald. This article goes on to relate that the Cornell Cooperative Extension had just done a study of Setauket Harbor and had “turned up troubling results.” The article went on to quote Laurie Vetere, chairwoman of for the Setauket Harbor Task Force “that Setauket Harbor has significant water quality issues caused by road runoff from rain water flooding into the harbor after storms.”

This was interesting and encouraging to me since it named a new obvious culprit – runoff of chemicals from storm water – and it did not say the cesspools was the sole culprit, although they obviously contribute to the overall problem.

The article went on to say that Setauket Harbor had secured a one million dollar grant from New York State, which is to be divided three ways:

1. Half of the one million dollars will go to the improvement of dock.

2. Forty percent ($400,000) would be used on storm water improvements.

3. The remaining $100,000 will be used to remove silt that has accumulated in the harbor and it water sources.

It will be fascinating to find out:

1. If this money actually gets turned over for use in Setauket Harbor.

2. What specifically the one million dollars accomplishes.

In any case, it is an interesting development and I hope that it accomplishes some actual good results. I would question what $500,000 improvement to the Setauket Harbor Dock will accomplish? I find it hard to believe that will actually improve the water quality of Setauket Harbor. Perhaps, I am missing something? I would also like to know what specifically will be done “on storm water improvements.” I am curious – will there be some sophisticated filtration system set up on all the storm water drains leading into Setauket Harbor? If so, how will these be maintained? One would guess that any filtration system could be become clogged. Finally, it would interesting to know what happens to the $100,000 of silt that is dredged up. Where will it go?

A last point to this hopeful new development is to mention again that Setauket Bay is only one of four bays comprising the Port Jefferson waterways. That leads me to ask two last questions – will the one million planned to be spent on Setauket Harbor, benefit the three other bays directly connected to it? Or will any improvements resulting from the one million dollar investment be overwhelmed by storm water chemicals and other forms of pollution flowing directly from other three bays flowing directly into Setauket Harbor?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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My Old Boss, Dan Rattiner, Founder of Dan’s Papers

Early Dan - I think when I met him he sported a mustache

Early Dan – when I met him he sported a mustache

By Cecil Hoge

In the year 1967, I managed, after six years of work, stress and partying, to graduate from the University of Virginia. My first act, after the 6 years, was to invite 6 of my fellow college friends and 1 college girlfriend (a very pretty and pert blonde young lady, named Penny Zetterstrom) to come visit my family’s summer house in Southampton.

My girlfriend was the first to leave after about 10 days of young love, she came to the rightful conclusion that I was not ready to make the big commitment and so she, with tears in her eyes and the summer wind in her hair, departed back to the University of Virginia determined to be, as she told me, a super woman. The problem was that I was not ready to be a super husband and so we parted with the clear understanding young love does not always work out.

Soon thereafter some of my other college buddies began to drift away, determined to take up the reins of life and go out and find a career. After three weeks that left me and Rich Miller, the last of my college buddies, alone sadly pondering our possibilities. We felt we were just not ready to get out there and find a career. One evening, after one or two or maybe more beers, the solution began to come into view. I had boat, Rich had motor, and after those facts became obvious, we decided we could merge our assets and become clam diggers for the summer. And that is what we did for the next three months.

I have written about that experience and in this blog you will find a story of that wonderful summer, but that is not the subject of this article. This article is about my old boss, Mr. Dan Rattiner. Before telling you about Dan, I have to tell you a little bit more about Rich.

At the end of the summer, with cool September breezes beginning to blow, Rich made his move. He would get into the banking trade, head down to the Caribbean, manage the assets of wealthy islanders, buy a sailboat and live happily ever after. That almost happened, Rich did go into the banking trade and he did buy a sailboat. After getting the sailboat, he decided he liked sailing more than banking and changed his career to the sailboat delivery business, delivering exotic sailboats to all parts of the world.

That left me in Southampton with my family closing their summer house and me at 6s and 7s. That is a British term meaning my life was in disarray and confusion. Fortunately, the confusion cleared fairly quickly when I happened to pick up a copy of the Southampton Summer Day. That was a free paper that was being given out in barbershops, museums and bars. I will let you guess where I found my first copy.

Now this paper was not very impressive at the time. It was 16 to 20 pages long, tabloid in shape and form, mostly in black and white type with some scratchy black and white cartoon drawings signed by a fellow named Dan. There might have been a second color added here and there, to the headlines, to some of the ads. Some of the black and white cartoon drawings were quite humorous and quirky. That was also true of the black and white printed stories. Anyway, this paper had a certain esprit and when I started to read it, I found out it was also written by another fellow named Dan. Putting two and two together, and in taking a look at the masthead I discovered that the two Dans were really one fellow named Dan Rattiner.

At the time, I was trying to figure out how to become a writer and I realized that Dan already was a writer. Now, as mentioned, there was something quite quirky and unusual about this paper. The articles were light-hearted, good-hearted, well-written and sometimes completely false. I am not sure what article caught my incredulous eyes, aliens landing in East Hampton or something like that. Now these stories, some of which were true and some which were complete lies, were all humorous and quirky. I have admit I signed on to the humor as soon as I realized that some of the stories were not really true.

It was then that I got a bright idea. I would submit some stories and ask for a job. That would allow me to stay in Southampton for the winter and there I could develop my skills as a writer. I do not remember just what stories I dug up or exactly what I submitted, but I sent some stuff off to the address on the masthead and addressed it to Dan Rattiner. After a few days, I called the newspaper.

I was surprised when none other than Dan Rattiner himself answered the phone. Apparently, his secretary was off for the day.

I asked Dan if he had gotten the envelope I had sent. Yes, he answered. I asked Dan if he read the enclosed material. No, he answered. I asked if he would he read the enclosed material. Yes, answered. With our conversation at an end, I left the telephone number of our summer house to call back. Dan promised he would.

Sure enough, Dan did call back and he suggested that we meet to discuss the idea of writing for what I thought was the Southampton Summer Day. Dan named a restaurant to meet near East Hampton. A couple of days later I drove out to the restaurant in question. I forget the name, but it was on Montauk Highway, before you get to East Hampton. It was right next to a tank that had been parked there to commemorate something that happened during World War II.

The restaurant, if I remember, was a kind of diner, quaint, but certainly not posh. When I got there, I found Dan sitting at a table. At first I was not sure who he was, but after blundering about I discovered Dan was the youngish looking guy seated alone at one the tables. I should have known because Dan was the only guy seated alone at one of the tables and all other tables were occupied by two or more people engaged in active conversation.

I introduced myself, sat down and pretty soon Dan asked what I wanted to eat. I surveyed the menu that had a bunch of things I didn’t quite recognize. I asked Dan what he was going to have.

“Lox and bagel,” He said.

I was not quite sure what that was, but I decided I would go with flow – it was the sixties, after all.

“I’ll have Lox and bagel,” I said, not quite knowing what I was ordering.

Dan and I had lox and bagels. I had iced tea and Dan had coffee. At lunch, Dan began to give me the history of the Southampton Summer Day. It turned out it was only one of four different newspapers that Dan was printing and distributing. The Montauk Pioneer was the first paper that Dan had started in 1960. After a few years, Dan added the Hampton Beach, the Southampton Summer Day and East Hampton Summer Sun. Circulation was as many copies as he could distribute to various barbershops, retail stores, bars, restaurants and discotheques, and that was usually around 35,000 copies.

In between Dan telling me the history of how he founded the Montauk Pioneer and these other papers, I told him my goals. I wanted to be the F. Scott Fitzgerald of the East End. Dan said that was a fine goal, but one day does not a writer make. It takes time and practice. I was a little discouraged by the word practice. It sounded so prosaic and somehow it seemed to imply work.

I asked Dan what he thought of the stuff I sent. Well, he said, somewhat hesitatingly, it was a little rough, but it showed promise, that’s why he wanted us to meet.

That me left more encouraged.

Going for the jugular, I asked if that meant he could give me a job.

Dan pursed his lips and said yes, he could give me job. The only problem was, he explained, that he did not need a full-time writer on his payroll.

What did he need, then, I asked.

“Well, what I need just now is a newspaper delivery man.”

Dan went on to say that this was an ideal way to get to know the newspaper business and to become a writer in the long run. Dan went on to say he would pay $60 a week for delivering papers and a penny a word for every word he published of mine. A penny a word did not sound like big money to me, but the combination of some firm cash and some extra potential income from writing did sound intriguing.

I had read “Down and Out in Paris and London,” by George Orwell, about how old George worked in a sleazy cafe on the Left Bank that became kind of trendy after a while for no logical reason. And I remembered that old George worked in garret and wrote at night and at odd times when he was not serving Steak-frites and glasses of vin rouge. It seemed to me driving a delivery truck and writing at odd times was kind of the same thing and so, I signed up to become a delivery boy and a writer.

Dan felt kind of good about this and he began to tell me a little more of his history. It seemed that he and some other guys founded the East Village Other in 1965, but after a couple of years doing that, Dan got disgusted with the drug scene that naturally gravitated to that publication and so he retreated back to Montauk and continued publishing the Montauk Pioneer.

At first Dan did it all. He put together The Montauk Pioneer, he set the type, he sold the ads and he ran around Montauk delivering the newspapers. After the first summer, he found that in spite of handing out free copies of the newspaper, he actually made a small profit after all costs. In other words, the ads more than paid for the distribution and printing costs and something was left over.

That experience encouraged Dan to add newspapers. I believe the second paper he started was the East Hampton Summer Sun. After more summers of putting together the papers,  selling the ads and physically delivering, the two papers also made money. By this point, it was becoming a little enterprise. Dan hired a lady to help to put together the paper and a delivery boy. By 1967, Dan had added the Hampton Beach and the Southampton Summer Day. Dan also put together a little business plan and went to the Bank of Bridgehampton and had gotten financing for his expansion. Each and every year Dan was able to show profits, proving to the Bank of Bridgehampton that Dan was a good financial bet.

After we had finished our lox and bagels and as we were walking out the restaurant, Dan said two things to me.

“Your hired,” and “I officially pronounce you a Jew.” This was because I had done such a stellar job of eating the lox and bagel, which, by the way, I thought was very tasty. Who knew lox was actually salmon?

So that began my fairly long association with Dan Rattiner. That winter I delivered the newspapers (I believe there was one other delivery boy doing penance with me) and, in between, I wrote articles for Dan.

One of my first assignments for Dan was writing a Guide Book to the Hamptons. To do this and not shame myself, I retreated to the Southampton library and did some actual research. Among other things, I read a history of Long Island. I was quite surprised to learn, according to the history I read, that there were five Indian tribes on Long Island when the Europeans first arrived and that Long Island was populated by almost 100,000 Indians before the Euros arrived.

I was also surprised to find how tough things could get in Southampton if you had a little too much to drink. Apparently, you were made to sit outside with your head and arms stuck in some kind of wooden clamp and then all the residents could throw eggs and lettuce and tomatoes at you while sat there helplessly stuck. Talk about a tough crowd. I was also surprised to learn after the Spanish American War almost 10,000 soldiers were sent to Montauk to recover from the various diseases they picked up in that war.

I got to throw in some current events, like surfing in the Hamptons or when one of the members of the Lovin’ Spoonful, Sal, got married. I am not quite sure how I stumbled on to this news event. I think I was on my way to the beach club (aka The Southampton Bathing Corporation), when I saw Sal in gloriously striped pants come romping out St. Andrew’s Church with John Sebastion and other Spoonful members in tow, throwing flowers and rice, playing tambourines and guitars. It was a riotous performance and the times they was a changing. Things was happening and I was happy to report on such goings on.

In short, I learned a lot of things about Southampton and Long Island. With the information that I gathered from research and gossip, I wrote the first draft to the Hampton Summer Guide. That was my first big writing job. Other things that I wrote were little blurbs on various restaurants and happenings. A particular event of no particular importance I remember reporting on was about a girl named Wendy, who I named SunBunny, primarily because she was the girlfriend of the other delivery boy and she distracted the newspapers printers in Newark, New Jersey, enough to threaten the potential delivery of the paper, or so I said.

 

My first article claims the Light-In was a Fiasco

My first article claims the Light-In was a Fiasco

By November of 1967, Dan published the first full article I wrote. This was a great thrill for me. It was in the The East Hampton Summer Sun. The title of the story was “1500 People Stand For Lighthouse”. The subhead was “Rattiner Calls Light-In a Fiasco”. This was not what Dan said, it was what I made up. I went on the report that Dan said there were 3 things wrong with the “Light-In”:

  1. The people were all wrong, there were not enough Hippies, just families with children.
  2. The police were too nice, they did not exhibit any extraneous violence.
  3. The music was all wrong, instead of rock music and flag-burning, a patriotic band played and all the people protesting were completely peaceful, very cheerful and, hence, all wrong.

I went on to say that the only consolation was that $400,000 was raised to save the Montauk Lighthouse. Of course, most of what I wrote was completely untrue, including the bit about $400,000 being raised. But it was true that 1500 people did attend the Montauk “Light-In” and it was actually pretty successful demonstration of support for the Montauk Lighthouse. And, by the way, Dan was successful in drawing attention to the plight of the Montauk Lighthouse, which, at the time, was gradually slipping into the sea.

And finally, as many people know, the Montauk Lighthouse was eventually saved.

I delivered papers that whole winter, but distribution was down because of the season. It was only in the summer months that the full range of drop-offs became evident. One of the things that occurred as a side aspect of delivering papers is that I got to go into a lot of strange places. At the time, head shops and discotheques were enjoying sudden and increasing popularity. Like all businesses in the Hamptons, they were seasonal and enjoyed their best business in June, July and August.

I remember a few. There was a head shop next to The Grotto of the Purple Grape, a restaurant between Watermill and Bridgehampton that enjoyed some passing success. The head shop, whose name was Soporific, was run by a young man named Billy who always wore aviator sunglasses, whether in the dark UV lit backroom of the head shop or standing outside, he always had on that pair of aviator glasses. I am sure he thought of himself as a kind aviator, if only in the mind.

The selection of merchandise was eclectic, to say the least. It included water pipes, cigarette papers, state of the art bicycles and brightly colored, extremely comfortable Peruvian hammocks. In the dark back of the inner head shop where UV light ruled was the full selection of cigarette papers, water pipes, bongs and other smoking paraphernalia. Upon on going back there, one was almost always greeted with the pungent and sweet smell of marijuana, occasionally intermixed with the smell of incense. Most often Billy was back there in aviator glasses behind a glass cabinet displaying the wide variety of cigarette papers and water pipes and other smoking paraphernalia. He always smiled.

Outside the head shop, before you entered the dark environs of the head shop, was a really high-tech assortment of bicycles and extremely brightly colored Peruvian hammocks. Sometimes, you would find the young aviator, Billy, proprietor and owner, swinging slightly in the breeze on one of his hammocks outside. Occasionally, when a customer came over to ask a question about one the $600 to $800 bikes (big bucks in those days) Billy would lift his head up and say,

“Yeah man, they are state of the art, I sell top end stuff.” That was usually the maximum sales effort that Billy made, but he would always punctuate it with a sly stoned smile that said to all others in the know that he was in the know.

Whatever his sales technique was, it seemed to work, because Soporific operated successfully for a good ten or fifteen years.

Another place I remember was a discotheque hidden deep in some potato field somewhere between Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor. How to get there, I could not tell you. What its name was, I could not tell you. Basically, you kept going down roads with endless potato fields on either side and eventually you got a dirt driveway and drove down that for a quarter mile and ended up at a large imposing wooden clapboard house and that was the discotheque. Strangely enough, other people found their way to this place and late at night The Velvet Underground, complete with Nico, Lou Reed and the original members, and other trendy, psychedelic groups would play late into the night.

I am still not quite sure how anyone found that place at night. I had found it during the day delivering newspapers. I was never able to find it at night. But with the guidance of my psychedelic cousin, who had powers beyond her age, I was able to find it late at night. But I will tell you without a spirit guide you would never get there and perhaps that was the point.

This was an early version of my clamdigging saga

This was an early version of my clam digging saga

I wrote and delivered newspapers all that winter and the next summer for Dan. Dan tried to get me interested in all aspects of the business, I guess all young business owners do. It is only natural. You want to share the joy, you want to create enthusiasm with your employees, you want to get people to sign on to your program. It is only natural and I can sympathize with this, even if my sympathy took 40 years to develop.

Dan tried to enlist me as a typesetter and there I drew the line. This is one of the big regrets of my life. I consider it on a par with never trying skiing when I had the opportunity. So I did not try type-setting other than a few half-hearted and momentary efforts. The reason being my mind goes faster than my physical movements and so I tended to forget things. In type-setting that meant forgetting to put in certain letters or words…generally I included most parts of most sentences. I still suffer from this disability. It seems that age has not improved my skills. Who knew?

No matter, I was a miserable type-setter for Dan, both in performance and in enthusiasm. In short, I thought it was not my job. Years later, I regretted this very much. Why?  It certainly would never have been something I was very good at. But no matter, it was something that I never properly learned, never experienced and it was the passing of an era. Yes, I did some years later, learn about type, the selection of type, the beauty of type, the subtlety of type, when I started working with a layout artist selecting type. And yes, I did that. But I never did what I should have done, except for a few rare cases. Stain my hands with the type, pick up the type pieces, put them laboriously in place, learn how Luther did it. It is a regret and I feel I owe Dan an apology. Hey, I was stupid.

There are other things I believe I owe Dan apology  for. He introduced me to Elaine K. Benson. I thought nothing of it. She had an art gallery and she wrote a column in Dan’s different papers called “Elaine K. Benson, Her Column”. Well, I did not know it, but that was a kind of guide to future possibilities, but I ignored it.

Along the way, Dan introduced me to people who I had no clue who they were. One lady was introduced to me as Jackson Pollock’s wife. We shook hands. I had no idea who she was. She had sad dark eyes and was somewhat overweight when I met her. In retrospect, if I had known who she was, I would have asked a whole bunch of embarrassing and interesting questions. No matter, the moment is the moment you know to make use of and I did not know to make use of the moment and now it is past.

Late that summer I was not in the mood to give Dan an apology. I felt my life was primarily delivering newspapers and negligibly writing. Dan must have sensed my frustration, because at the end of the summer, he published three stories all at once. This was pleasing and complimentary, but by that time, the summer winds were turning cool and I wanted to move on.

Towards the end Dan ran several of my stories

Towards the end Dan ran several of my stories

So that is what I did. This time, I found a friend who wanted a movie script written and I tried my hand at that. It was not successful. In the process, I got a job in my father’s business (not hard, since I knew someone who was connected). So for that winter, I wrote a movie script that never got produced and made fishing rods for my father that I did get produced. I can say at least I learned how to produce fishing rods.

The next year, I decided to take full advantage of my philosophy degree and so I went and applied to be a writer at Esquire, Newsday and the New Yorker. Let me sum it up and say neither my previous printed history with Dan or my philosophy major impressed anyone who was willing to hire me. Newsday did not think I wrote fast enough to be a reporter (in truth I was a hopeless typist), Esquire thought my articles did not have sufficient weight and New Yorker thought my writing was a kind of joke. So much for my new career search.

Fortunately, I had something to fall back on and fall back on it I did. I went back into my father’s business and a strange thing happened along the way. I kind of fell in love with it. So that is what I did for the next 6 or so years.

Then a strange happened. I went out to Montauk for vacation and I happened to notice that Dan’s different papers had gotten a little bigger. I think they were now running 36 to 48 pages. At the same time, I noticed that things were changing in Montauk. So, without really knowing what I was doing, I wrote a story about Montauk.

I sent the story to Dan, saying I had noticed the changes in the papers, that they had become bigger and that there was more use of color. They were still tabloid in format, but maybe they 36 to 48 pages in length and chock full of ads. And I could tell by their heft that Dan was having some success in selling ads and distributing papers.

Dan did something inscrutable. He published my article without telling me. This led to a new avenue of discussion. Always sensitive to the payment issue (it was not one of need, it was one of pride), I suggested Dan pay me at my old rate…one penny per word.

Silence ensued, but eventually a $60 check arrived, again unbidden, un-heralded, but appreciated.

This started a kind mini career with Dan. I started to send in some articles and he started to print them, religiously paying me one penny per word. I was grateful and this continued for about a year and half.

Then I started submitting stories to Dan that I suspect crossed a hidden editorial border. Let’s face it, Dan’s Papers are not here to change the world and the articles I sent him wanted to. And I will admit it, some were kind of depressing, so you could say he was down on them because they were depressing (I wanted to cover the population explosion and the bombarding of Iraq). Apparently, Dan did not think that was in character with the publications.

Dan composing for a future issue

Dan composing for a future issue

Over time, the publications became one single publication…Dan’s Papers. And so, it became the brainchild of the present creature. Somewhere along the way, Dan got the genius idea or someone got the genius idea to create a color wrap with a color painting for the cover. This was, of course, pure genius because the East End was rife with painters. You name them, they were all here.

I proposed other new ideas…some Dan accepted because they were in his editorial vein. I wrote an article on how my salad dressing was much better than Paul Newman’s and Dan published that. Other ideas fell flat. I knew they fell flat when I would not hear from Dan. I would send in a suggested story and silence would ensue.

I had what I thought was a great idea… I would write a story about the Shinnecock Indians starting their own casino. I had big plans for their casino. It would be right out of Las Vegas but with some special Hampton features. There would be tennis courts, marble side walks, girls would deliver drinks on rollerblades. Slot machines in Lilly Pulitzer patterns would be on either side of the marble walkways. I figured Hillary Clinton would arrange detente with the Indians, New York State and the Casino Industry. There would be a giant surf machine, producing perfectly formed 20′ rollers that super buff surfers could ride all day. The casino itself would be housed in a giant sprawling Hampton’s style mansion with large open porches with roulette tables and slot machines inside and out. Yes, it would be a class act.

Apparently, Dan did not think it was a class act idea.

“Those people are like without humor,” he said to me after I called him up after a month of silence, “They take these matters seriously.”

Maybe Dan was right, but considering the election year we are presently facing (this being the summer of 2016), I could see some added embellishments with Hillary competing to get the Shinnecocks true justice and health care and the Donald building a 30′ high wall to protect Hampton billionaires from the garish new casino in town that the Shinnecocks would be happy to pay for. Oh yes, I could have a lot of fun with that.

In any case, I did not pursue my Shinnecock Indian Casino story further, although I think it still has merit.

In the last twenty years, Dan’s Paper’s became a marketing and literary force in the Hamptons and in choosing the name Dan’s Papers, Dan was able to instill all of the original ethos of his original papers and add extra layers that just made it more successful, like when he added gossip on the inside in South of the Highway or fantasy in about Hampton’s Subway Newsletter and color paintings on the cover and a 24-48 page color wrap on the outside.

About six years ago, I invited Dan to lunch. I suggested The American Hotel in Sag Harbor.

“Yum,” said Dan and a few days later, off we went.

There I asked him what changes in the paper was he surprised by?

Dan thought a while and said, “I never thought gossip would be a part of my newspaper.”

He did not say this with regret, but rather with surprise. I think Dan was being honest in saying that. It was not his intention. It was not his plan. But things evolve, things go forward and I suppose that is what happened with Dan’s Papers.

I know Dan’s position has changed in the community. Dan invited me to the Fortieth Anniversary Party of Dan’s Paper and it was quite impressive. Held at beautiful East Hampton ocean front home, with Billy Joel, Peter Jennings and a whole bunch of other billionaires and celebrities in attendance. Yes, things had changed for Dan.

When I first started delivering papers for Dan, it was often hard to get the various establishments to accept his papers. That is no longer true. Today, Dan’s Papers is a staple of the community, desired in all its different locations. The paper became over a period of years, the leading publication of the Hamptons and I think you can say that this is still true today. No other publication, super glossy or not, comes close. As such, Dan’s Papers is the arbiter of the Hamptons, of the Hampton’s Scene, of that peculiar lifestyle that seems to combine wealth with celebrity.

At lunch, I told Dan my idea for this blog. It was to be a series of stories about myself and my family. I had sent Dan some early drafts of the kind of stories I wanted to post and Dan was encouraging, but somewhat distant on the subject.

“It is a good idea to have legacy and knowing whether you are local or national can be important.”

He went on to say that he had hoped to be national, but it seemed that he was local.

“Dan,” I said, “That is question for the ages, not the moment.”

We left to the conversation there. It has now been a few years since I have spoken with Dan. In the meantime, I have proceeded with this blog.

Dan has continued to be the Bard of the East End. That title was given him by Chuck Scarborough, I believe. Dan much deserves that title.

My father said to me that the people in the Hamptons always change, but the houses do not.

I am sure there are many billionaires and not a few builders who would disagree. To me, the Hamptons has always been a place for the privileged to display their privileges. Originally it was millionaire doings and now it is billionaire doings, but other than that, not much has changed.

Again, there are quite a few billionaires that might disagree, but I think my father was right.

I am sure there are many improvements to the creature comforts offered in the new improved billionaire homes – movie theaters for 60 close personal friends, bowling alleys, indoor Olympic sized pools, helicopter pads, etc., but the truth is that the privileged continue to come to The Hamptons and they always will. And the truth is that my father was right, the houses remain, but the people come and go.

In the case of Dan, he was able to sell his controlling interest in his paper and still continue to write 2/3rds of Dan’s Papers every week. That is a pretty good trick when you think about it. It was probably a good deal for all concerned. Dan was able to offload the heartache and frustration of running a day-to-day business and the new owners were able to get a successful newspaper pre-loaded with a continuous supply of content. It all worked out.

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Growing Up Wet

Before Gray Hair and About 15 lbs.

Before Gray Hair and About 10 lbs.

By Cecil Hoge

I was born and raised in New York City for the first eleven years of my life. Very early on my parents took me to the ocean on Long Island. Sometimes we went to the Atlantic Beach Club. That was a kind of private beach club that was still very close to the city. We could get to The Atlantic Beach Club in about 45 minutes from my parents apartment at 520 East 92nd. If we were starting late then we would go to Jones Beach, which you could get to in about 30 minutes.

My father would drive us out in his green convertible Cadillac. If it was a sunny day, my father would put the top down. That was a fairly intricate job. His convertible Cadillac was not like the digitally driven cars of today. It was necessary to un-snap several levers above the windshield and push a button (a great innovation of that day) to persuade the top to begin its journey up and down behind the back seat. If all went smoothly, there was still some wrangling necessary to snap on a top cover to keep the convertible top down and out of the wind. Once this ritual was completed, we would drive from 520 East 90th to the ocean. My father was very proud of that car.

The Atlantic Beach Club

Even at the age of 4 or 5, I preferred the Atlantic Beach Club because it was less crowded, because it had a convenient hamburger and hotdog stand with tables where you could sit outdoors, because it had a swimming pool that was not too crowded and because the beach was just a short walk to the ocean. I am not sure exactly when my father and mother started taking me, but I would guess it was when I was 2 or 3 years old.

So on sunny summer weekends we would cruise out from East 92nd Street to either the Atlantic Beach Club or Jones Beach and bake in the sun and go swimming in the ocean. From that early age I always remembered that I loved the ocean and the beach. I loved everything about it. In particular, I loved when my father would bury me in the sand and the warm, hot feeling of the sand grains on my small body. From that early age, my father and mother would each take one of my hands and walk me into the ocean. At first I was terrified, but as I grew older and a little bit larger, I became used to the ocean and the waves became a little bit smaller, at least in relation to my size, and I loved to try and catch waves, to dive through waves and to body surf.

My father and his family had grown up summering in Quogue, so he was very used to the ocean and loved to take me in the surf. My mother, an Olympic class swimmer, was born on and around water, so she was also an enthusiastic ocean swimmer.

Occasionally, we would go out to the Hamptons and visit with my uncle who had a house rental in Southampton. This was at a time that almost anyone could afford a house rental in the Hamptons. Today that almost anyone had better be a billionaire. When my uncle was renting, a nice house on South Main Street or First Neck Lane might be two or three thousand dollars for the summer. Today, the same house might be $50,000 or $100,000…for the month! And if you want a really nice house on the ocean, get ready to multiply by 5, 10 or more.

So we can say that much has changed in the last 70 years or so and prices is one of those things. What has not changed is the actual Atlantic Ocean which laps up on the shores of Long Island’s beaches. There is a good 120 miles of oceanside beaches so there are plenty of places for people to go. These days the beaches, all of them, are pretty crowded. It was not so different 60 or 70 years ago.

The ocean was then and is now still pretty clean, excepting occasional occurrences of tar oil and brown algae washing up on our shores. In summer the ocean waters on the East End of Long Island can take on a turquoise blue color that makes you think you are in the tropics. This is because the Gulf Stream sweeps close to the East End of Long Island, making the ocean water, when clear, even more beautiful.

The ocean has its calm days and its rough days. In June, the ocean is still pretty cold. By July, it is usually in the low to middle 70s and it stays that way until October, although the temperature of the air starts to get pretty cool by the end of September. By the middle of September, tropical storms and hurricanes try to make their run at Long Island, but mostly they miss.

Generally there is a good 12 weeks of beach going weather and my father and mother took advantage of that just about every weekend from the middle of June to the middle of September. The trip to Southampton was quite long in those days and surprisingly the traffic was not much better than it is today. The highways were much more limited, so it could take three and half hours to get to Southampton. That meant that most weekends we headed to the Atlantic Beach Club. As mentioned that was my favorite ocean location because it was still quite close to the city and yet not as crowded as Jones Beach.

At the Atlantic Beach Club, my father taught me the fine art of body surfing at about the age of 5. It took me a while to become comfortable with body surfing. At first, I was terrified by the breaking waves, but by the time I was eight I was the proverbial fish. I loved the ocean, I loved the waves and when I finally learned how to body surf, I loved catching waves. When I would come out of the ocean, I liked to bury my body in the hot sand to get warm. If my father was in a good mood, I could usually con him into burying me up to my neck.

My mother, who generally was fond of French food, condescended to introduce me to the hotdogs and CocaCola available at the Atlantic Beach Club. So a good day at the beach included body surfing for hours at a time, coming out and getting buried by Dad in the sand and then conniving my mother to get me a hotdog and a CocaCola after I took a shower. The outdoor shower was not heated, so that could be as invigorating as going in the ocean.

It was on one of our weekend visits to the Atlantic Beach Club that I got to sit on Charlie Chaplin’s lap. I do not remember the event very clearly, but apparently I was running by and he started a conversation asking where I was going in such a rush (it was to the hotdog stand, if I remember correctly). I ended up sitting on his lap for about 20 minutes, jabbering, no doubt, about the ocean and the beach, while my mother also carried on an excited conversation with the famous actor, happy to have the opportunity to speak to a true celebrity. My father told me that Charlie Chaplin found me to be a very exuberant and very well-behaved child. Charlie was half right.

Bellport

When I was eight or nine, my parents decided to buy a summer house in Bellport, Long Island. Bellport was considerably further out on Long Island, just about 65 miles from New York City, just east of Patchogue. The house was a small two story Cape Cod cottage with three bedrooms. It was about a quarter of mile from the Great South Bay. It was easy walking distance on the gravel road right by our house directly to a small beach on the Great South Bay.

My parents had two friends, Smokey and Ethel, who lived about a half a mile directly on a small point jutting out into Great South Bay. At first I did not like Bellport because it was not on the ocean. To get to the ocean, you had to take a small ferry across to Fire Island where there was the Bellport Beach Club. It was a pretty primitive setup shared by 300 or 400 hundred Bellport residents. It consisted of a strip of little beach with changing closets made out simple plank wood. It had a dock where you landed, a wooden walkway from the dock to the Beach Club. There was a cold shower and the row of wooden changing closets. There was a male or female bathroom that was really an outhouse. Food and entertainment was provided by the hotdog stand, which when it was open, provided Coca Cola, Gingerale, coffee, hotdogs, hamburgers and French fries. You could tell the stand was open when the wooden window to the stand was propped up.

The Bellport Beach Club was a wonderful place if you loved the ocean and sun. I believe the Beach Club is now gone, wiped out by a hurricane or just plain abandoned. There is a place that you can take the Bellport ferry to now called “Ho Hum Beach.” That kind of summarizes what The Bellport Beach Club was like. You had ocean, sun and sand in spades. Some days you also had something else in spades…horseflies. When the wind was blowing offshore the horseflies came in and they could be murderous.

A swimming pool would have been nice, but there was none. There were some simple beach chairs and umbrellas. There was a supply of towels brought out by the ferry each week. Sometimes they were available, sometimes they were not. It was a supply and demand situation. If there was a big demand that day, the towels would run out early. So it was best to bring your own towels, which we did.

I loved that Bellport Beach Club because I loved the ocean. Each day we came, we would spend 4 or 5 hours on the beach, alternating between swimming in the ocean and sunning ourselves on the beach. This was before the time people were sun conscious and when it thought that a good sun tan was truly healthy. Yes, we did use suntans lotions, but those lotions were designed to enhance our tans, not to protect you against the sun. Coppertone was the leading brand of the day.

When we were hungry, we would get a hotdog or a hamburger. If you got too hot, you went into the ocean or took a cold shower. If you got cold, you went back out on the beach and sunned yourself some more. It was a kind of circle of activity.

It was at the Bellport Beach Club that my father almost drowned me. Perhaps, when I was 9 or 10, my father decided to take me into the ocean on a particularly rough day. Being smaller than I am today, I am not sure just how big the waves were. I am thinking they were 5 or 6 feet, but they appeared far larger to me, at least 12 to 14 feet. We went into the ocean in the usual manner. That is, me on top of my father’s shoulders. Now this system had stood us well for many a summer, but as time went on I got taller and heavier and my father remained his skinny, tall 6′ 3″ self. You might say as I got older and heavier we became, as a water going unit, top heavy and with time the center of gravity shifted upward. This meant that we were not the most stable in 2 or 3 foot waves and we were really unstable in 5 or 6 foot waves.

No matter, both my father and I liked a challenge. So we lurched into the Atlantic and for a while things went swimmingly. That is to say we were able to dive through and re-emerge after the first two waves. It was the third wave that got us. I am not sure what happened. I remember re-emerging triumphantly after the second wave only to be greeted by a third waves about four feet away. In short, we were caught in the crosshairs of the wave and there was simply no way to avoid it. It came crashing down on me and my father.

I am not sure just how tall that wave was, but for sure it was a lot taller than me and my father put to together. Within seconds we were no longer put together and I found myself tumbling for what seemed like forever underwater. Usually, in a situation where we had been up ended, I was able to pop up to the surface in seconds, but not this time. I just kept tumbling in the deep frothy water and when I finally did come up, I was immediately greeted by a fourth wave which propelled me back under the wave without the opportunity to grab even one short breath.

Things were now getting serious because I was still tumbling under water without any air. After what seemed like hours I did re-emerge for the briefest of seconds and got the briefest of gasps of air before being plunged under again by a fifth wave. Things were now more serious because I was still tumbling under water without air. Worse, I had lost my sense of direction. I started to swim frantically only to hit the sandy bottom. I tried to surge to the surface but a sixth wave came rolling in sending me tumbling once again sideways, upside down, every which way but to the top. I could sense that I was losing consciousness when a hand grabbed my arm and pulled me up. When I came up I saw my father proudly displaying me like a soggy fish. I gasped in some air and realized that I was among the living.

I came to love Bellport and our little summer cottage. In time, I learned to fish with a bamboo pole and a bobber. We used minnows that we bought from the local bait shop or we caught our own minnows with a seine. One day I caught 108 snappers in 40 minutes.

I also learned to crab. We used chicken heads tied to some string which we would throw into the water off of Smokey and Ethel’s dock. The line went out about 15 feet, we would stand on the dock where the water about 3 feet deep below and wait. This afforded a pretty good view of the line and the chicken head. When I saw the line move, I would pull the string back slowly and grab a nearby net that was on a long pole. I would pull the crab up close to the surface and then I would swoop in with my net. If you worked hard at this, you could get a couple of dozen crabs in a couple of hours.

I would bring the crabs back to Eldora, the black lady who looked after me, who cooked my meals and who cleaned the house. Eldora was afraid of crabs so I would have to be the person to put the poor devils in the boiling pot. Of course, they would try to crawl out and Eldora would scream in fright and I would scream in delight.

I did my fishing and crabbing mostly off of Smokie and Ethel’s dock. Smokie was well named because he liked to smoke, something my father did not approve of. Smokie and Ethel were also avid drinkers. My mother was very happy to have Smokie and Ethel around because she was a both smoker and a drinker. So on weekends, we would go over the Smokie and Ethel’s for dinner. It was usually a casual affair with Smokie, Ethel and my mother all having cocktails while my father drank Ballantine Ale, which I always thought was very cool. They would all sit around and talk and drink cocktails and smoke, except my father who stuck to his Ballantine Ale.

One day I learned a far more efficient system to crab off of Smokey and Ethel’s dock. I should say one night because that was when I learned how to catch a whole bushel of crabs in less than an hour. It was a dog stupid, dog simple system. Eldora would shine a light on the water off of the dock and I would swoop down with my trusty net. Some nights, literally hundreds of crabs would come up to the light at a time. All you had to do was swing your net down through the water and then you could scoop up 20, 30 or 40 crabs in one swoop. Eldora would hoot and scream as soon as she saw the crabs. She was terrified of them and she would not touch them, but she was entranced by the crabs.

“There’s they be,” she would scream, “Oh Lordy, look at those evil looking things. Theyse crawling, theyse creeping, don’t you bring them evil looking things near me.”

It was a true love/hate relationship between Eldora and blue claw crabs. I would have to carry the crabs back to the house at night. And of course, the crabs were not to happy about this so they would get busy trying to get out of the bushel basket. How many blue claw crabs were lost on the way home was never known, but we always had more crabs than we could eat. Trust me, I tried my best to eat every single crab, but after the first 20 or so, I would begin to lose interest.

At the house when we got back with the crabs that were still in the bushel basket, we would cook them up. Eldora would scream and yell while I put them in a big boiling pot of water we had for the occasion. The crabs would try to get out, but soon the boiling water would still their movements and then they would turn red. We ate those crabs on the little kitchenette table. We would cover the table with newspapers, get a pile of napkins, some paper plates and a couple of wooden hammers and Eldora and I would go at those crabs. She may have called them “evil looking things”, but she more than happy to eat them evil looking things. That table looked like an ancient battlefield after Eldora and I finally gave up eating as many as we could, with crab shells everywhere and bits of crabmeat flecked all over the table. But those crabs was good.

“Lordy, those evil, foul smellin’ things do taste good,” Eldora would say after twenty minutes of crab carnage.

Eldora was our cook, our maid and my best buddy. I did have a couple of local friends who would come over and teach me the fine art of fishing or of apple stealing. We had local apple orchard down the street and me and my friends would take great delight in trying to steal as many apples as possible, often eating them before their time and getting stomach aches as a result. That never stopped our apple acquisition program, although it did slow down and occasionally disrupt our apple consumption program.

If I was not out with my fellow tiny buddies, all aged around 10 or 12, I was out with Eldora dragging her out to some adventure she did not want to participate in. Somehow around that time, I convinced my father to invest in a small 16 foot boat and a 5 hp. I would gather up towels, fishing poles, crab nets and Eldora and I would motor across the Great South Bay. Now the Great South Bay was the same Great South Bay we took the ferry across. The ferry ride was unbearably slow, about 45 minutes, but the ride to Fire Island in my 16′ foot lap strake boat powered by my mighty 5 hp motor was even slower. Sometimes, it took two hours to cross the Great South Bay.

Now Eldora was not very comfortable with the water. The fact was that she could not swim probably had something to do with her concern about her safety. I never let that bother me. I always convinced Eldora that she had to come with me, that it was her duty to come with me. So Eldora would get into the boat remarking what a great tippy thing it was. But Eldora was a good sport and she screamed only occasionally.

Every afternoon the wind on the Great South Bay would come up out of the Southwest to 15 or 20 miles per hour. That often meant that we cruised over to Fire Island in morning in a dead flat calm and by the time we came back in the afternoon, it was windy, wet and the whole bay was covered by whitecaps. At age 10 or 11, it never occurred to me to think of safety. Most of the bay was only 2 or 3 feet deep and you had to motor very carefully or the prop would get tied up in salt water marsh grasses which covered most of the bay. I don’t remember if we had life jackets. If we did, they were the boxy orange foam block kind.

I have to tell you that one reason I preferred to swim in the ocean and not in the Great South Bay was that the Great South Bay was infested with nasty stinging jellyfish. So we would make the great one or two hour journey across the Great South Bay, Eldora and me. When we would finally get to Fire Island, I would force Eldora to walk with me across to where I could go for a swim in the ocean. Often we landed where there were no wooden plank walkways, only salt water marsh grasses and high sandy dunes. After we made our way through the tall, tough grasses, we would trek over dunes, and sometimes it was a half a mile or more. I would go then for a quick swim and then we would trek back. As you can imagine, Eldora had quite a lot to say about the indecency and hardship involved making this trek.

“Why you have to go this way, can’t you go where there is a walkway. I got sand in my shoes and I got bunions and theyse hurting.”

I would explain to her if we went to the Bellport Beach Club, it was two miles further East and a good extra 30 minutes by water.

“Why it’s 30 minutes to walk across them dunes and them grasses is just tearing at my bunions.” She would say.

Generally, I got my way because I was the captain of the ship and she was mortally afraid I might leave her in the boat alone. Her fears were well justified. One day I took her out to go fishing in the boat. We were about a half mile off shore. I was having a banner day pulling in snapper after snapper with my bamboo pole and bobber. Things was going good and then catastrophe struck. After hauling in a bunch of fish, I went to start the motor and to my horror, my beautiful little 5 hp power motor just rode up on the transom and slipped off. Down it went into the deep. Eldora greeted the catastrophe with a series of death curdling screams.

“Oh, Lordy, we gonna die. We gonna drown. Oh Lordy, this be the end. I knew I should not have gone out with that boy. The horoscope said something terrible was going to happen today and now, Lord, here it is. We are going to die.”

Frankly, I was more concerned with my loss of a motor than Eldora’s screams. Having a level head even at 11, I dropped anchor and decided I was going to dive for the motor. It was not that heavy and it was only about 10 feet deep in that particular spot. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate anything but jellyfish, which stung my legs, my arms, my face, my hands and just about every inch of my body. I persevered for a few more dives into the deep but soon the jellyfish stings seemed to have a cumulative effect.

Before going further let me tell you about the jellyfish that inhabited Great South Bay. They are very pretty, being almost a transparent silver color. They had long tentacles and regularly were two or three feet long. The real nasty ones had some purple blob coloring to them. Their stings were not so bad one at a time, but after twenty or thirty stings, you begin to feel pretty miserable. And if you have the misfortune to swim underwater and run into them with your eyes open, as I have, you can go blind for a week or so, as I did once. Fortunately, since I had previously gone blind from running into a jellyfish with my eyes open, I took great care to close my eyes every time a jellyfish came into view. That made looking for my motor somewhat more difficult and it still did not prevent me from groping around in the deep and being stung 20 or 30 times.

What with the stings stinging and Eldora screaming, I decided to give up my rescue effort to get the motor. That left me with a new rescue effort and that was to get back to shore. Fortunately there was an onshore breeze and, by throwing an anchor ever few minutes about twenty feet towards shore and then pulling it in, I was able to make slow, but steady progress towards the shore. This method took a full 30 minutes to get to shore. Eldora did not stop screaming until I had pulled the boat up to shore.

“Oh Lordy, thank the Lord, Ize back on land. God bless the heavens. I was lost, oh lord, and now I am saved.”

Eldora was only partially right because she had gotten out of the boat and was standing in the shallow water up to ankles. She was holding her two blue sandals decorated with two yellow daisies with one hand and her calico dress out of the water with the other. Part of her hair was hanging across her face, which was now one half hair and one half face. We had come back to land and we had survived. Despite the jellyfish stings and the loss of the motor, I was grateful I had gotten back to terra firma. And I was especially grateful now that Eldora had stopped screaming. And it only took about a week for the stings to stop stinging.

One of my most memorable experiences in Bellport was when a sailing catamaran appeared on the little beach where Smokey and Ethel had their dock. I was crabbing when a 25′ plywood sailing catamaran cruised up to the beach and crash landed on the sandy shore. That caught my eye. I felt a natural gravitational pull towards the catamaran. I had never seen anything quite like it. It had boxy sides created by the plywood construction. As far as could tell the bottom of the wooden pontoons were flat and the sides of the pontoons were also flat, although slanted inward and rectangular in shape. The pontoons did come to a point – a kind of V bow that widened out from front to about two thirds back and then they tapered back to a narrower square end. At the widest point the pontoons were only about one foot wide. At the narrowest point the bow they came to a sharp V. And at the stern of the pontoons they narrowed to about 8″ wide.

Two things struck me about this craft. It was huge. A good 25′ long and at least 12′ wide. The other thing was it had a huge sail and a large jib. It turned out this craft had been built by hand by a friend of Smokey’s and he brought it over to show his new, hand-made masterpiece. He asked if Smokey or anyone else wanted to go for a ride. Intuitively, I got on with Smokey. There were five of us on that catamaran. It took a little negotiation to turn the craft around. Basically, three of the sailors jumped in the bay and maneuvered it around so it was pointing towards Fire Island. The wind caught the sails and I felt the big cat lurch forward.

I heard someone say, “Here we go.”

That was an understatement. We started out slowly enough, about 3 or 4 miles per hour, just getting a hundred feet offshore. And then the afternoon Southwest wind broadsided the catamaran and we started to fly. The amazing sensation was the great surge of speed without the sound of a motor. We just kept picking speed. It was pretty windy day, with a 20 to 30 mile from Southwest. That was strong, but as mentioned every afternoon on the Great South Bay, the wind picked up from the Southwest.

The 20 to 30 mile wind almost immediately propelled us at 15 to 20 miles per hour. Now I was used to my 16′ lap strake boat with a 5 hp engine. That was slow, especially if there was a chop, as there was every afternoon. I was used to my 16′ boat slowing down in the chop, but that is not what happened with this new kind of sailing catamaran. The further we went out in the bay, the faster we went. We just skimmed over that bay. The catamaran hardly leaned, it just listed slightly with the wind and whenever there was a gust it surged forward even faster. I just could not believe it. This was the 1950’s, so I said, “Cool!”

If it was the 1960s, I probably would have said, “What a rush, man.”

Whatever I called it, it was without a doubt the most exciting sailing experience of life. We skimmed across that bay in about 25 minutes and almost ran Fire Island over. Before crashing into Fire Island, we came about and raced back. The return trip was even faster, no more than 20 minutes. That was the fastest I ever crossed the Great South Bay. In Smokey and Ethel’s open Chris Craft, an old classic with a wood deck and sleek lines, it was a good 40 minutes, mainly because you had to slow down in the chop that rose up every afternoon. On the Bellport ferry that went from the town dock to the Bellport Beach Club, it could be an hour and twenty minutes in heavy chop. And in my 16′ lap strake boat with a 5 hp motor, it could be an hour and three quarters or even two hours.

So to skim across the bay without the noise of the motor and only the splashing sound of the freshly painted plywood hull skimming over the two or three foot chop was simply amazing. The only thing remotely like it was riding an iceboat one winter across the Great South Bay. That was just about as fast, but bumpy and scary as hell and noisy as hell. Riding that sailing catamaran was not bumpy or scary or noisy. It was just fast as hell, exciting and quiet.

That was the first and last time rode on the catamaran. Every time I went Smokey’s dock after that experience, I looked for that catamaran to show up. I would ask Smokey when it was coming over. Maybe next week he would say, but it never did. And I never, ever forgot that sailboat ride. It left me with a lifetime love of sailing catamarans that one day I would fulfill.

In Bellport I had my first real experience with the true power of a hurricane. I should have known that this was a truly powerful hurricane because a few hours before the hurricane began in earnest, I walked down to our little beach on the Great South Bay. There was already a 40 mph wind coming across the bay. The whole bay was all white caps with 2 or 3 foot breaking waves. That was impressive enough in itself because most of the bay is so shallow, it cannot really have higher waves.

But what caught my eye was Fire Island. There in the distance (it was about 5 miles across the bay to Fire Island) I could see ocean waves breaking on the dunes. Above the dunes, I could see the ocean spray rise up after each breaking wave. That was really impressive because I knew the dunes were 50 or 60 feet high. I am guessing the waves breaking on Fire Island were at least 30 or 40 feet high. This was before the hurricane had actually arrived. This was early evening. The hurricane was not supposed to arrive until the early morning the next day. This was Hurricane Carol and the year was 1954. I was 11 years old at the time.

For me, a hurricane was a time of extreme excitement.We did not have the weather channel then, but even then radio and tv reports tracked its every movement up the East Coast. It had hit Cape Hatteras and it was headed straight up the coast aiming directly at Long Island. At that young age, it never occurred to me that such a hurricane could be dangerous. For me, there was only extreme excitement and anticipation. In retrospect, that hurricane could have wiped out the town of Bellport and could have washed away my little Cape Cod house. But that did not happen.

Now, having gone through 20 or so hurricanes on Long Island, I can say that Hurricane Carol was easily the strongest hurricane to hit Long Island in my lifetime. Nothing I experienced later came close. Hurricane Gloria, Hurricane Bob, The Perfect Storm and the most recent Perfect Storm, Tropical Storm Sandy were all pretty serious hurricanes or storms to hit Long Island, but Hurricane Carol was substantially worse. It arrived with steady winds of 125 miles per hour and at times, the winds gusted to 145 mph. It was a really serious hurricane and it hit Long Island directly.

Just about everybody in New York realized how serious Hurricane Carol was. Everybody except my father who confidently told me the reports and predictions were exaggerated. My father remembered the hurricane of 1938 and that, in his mind, was the only serious hurricane ever to hit Long Island. He told me, as a young boy, he remembered seeing a 50 foot motor yacht, securely lodged 25 feet up in a tree on a Golf Course. Well, I have no doubt that the Hurricane of 1938 was an extremely serious hurricane and maybe even stronger and more dangerous than Hurricane Carol. That said, Hurricane Carol was surely the second strongest hurricane to hit Long Island in the last 100 years.

But my father was adamant. The weather reports always exaggerated the strength of storms coming. Most of the time they just missed and the reports were wrong. Therefore, my father decided he has going to drive to New York City in the midst of Hurricane Carol when it was raging at its height. And that is what he did. I knew immediately my father had mis-judged the strength of the hurricane. As he went to open the side door to the garage, the door was thrown inward and my father was flung to the floor, just as he was saying what a minor storm it was.

I will say my father was not deterred. He got off of the floor, carefully maneuvered his way out the door and with great effort pulled the door shut behind him. He said few more words just emphasize how minor the storm really was and then he lurched back out the door towards the garage. It did take some time for me and my father to get the door shut, but with my father pulling from outside and me pushing from the inside, we managed it in about five minutes of tussling. Shortly thereafter, I saw my father’s Cadillac pull out of the garage and head down the street. I did not see my father for the next two days. My mother and myself survived fine. The house did not blow away. It did not wash away. We lost electricity about a half hour after my father left and it did not return for another two weeks, but I had a great adventure. I was the master of the house and we did fine.

I later learned that it took my father about 6 hours to make what was normally an hour and half trip. Apparently, he spent a good deal of time dodging trees and electrical wires. The closer he came to the city, the more he found his way blocked by abandoned cars, but my father was serious businessman and he did make it into the city and he might even have gotten some work done. Thinking about this from the viewpoint of the present over-cautious age, it was an outrageously stupid and dangerous thing for my father to do. And certainly, it could have ended in disaster for my mother and myself or for my father or for all of us. In the end, it was just something we all experienced and went through with no one the worse for wear.

Southampton

By the time I was 14, I started spending my summers in Southampton. Since the divorce of my father and mother was dragging on and my mother’s condition was deteriorating, it was felt that it would better for me to be in the Hamptons with my father, his brothers, his sister and their extended families. And that proved to be a wonderful thing for me, for suddenly I had a whole bunch of cousins and friends to hang out with. So I spent summers in Southampton living in the rental house shared by my father, his brothers and his sister. Since his brothers and his sister were all married and all had kids, that meant that basic operating unit of the house was 14.

Now people came and went so the house was rather like an accordion, sometimes extended, sometimes contracted. During the week, the men of the house, went to the city to conduct their work. The exception to this was Ivan Obolensky, the husband of Barbara, my father’s sister. Ivan was the sole representative of Taittinger Champagne. Ivan spent his week calling on restaurants and other accounts on Long Island and in New York. That connection served us well when the family had parties.

My time and schedule was simple in Southampton. Get up pretty much when I felt like it. Have breakfast and then ponder whether to go to the beach club or the Meadow Club. That depended on whether I thought there was surf. Surf ruled my life at 14. If there were waves, then I went to the ocean. I was a mat surfer by this time, using the Hodgman canvas air mattresses that were sold at Lillywhite’s, the local toy store. These were pretty simple rigs with a rope handle, a bicycle valve to inflate through, the air mattress was rectangular in shape, blue, white and red in color.

Over time I became a truly excellent mat surfer. I could ride just about any wave up to about 14′. Me and my surfing buddies would spend literally hours in the ocean, if there was surf. Not only did we compete to catch the biggest wave, we would try to find ways to wipe out our fellow surfers. The most effective way to wipe out a fellow surfer was to station yourself at the bottom of wave where you thought a fellow friend might come by. Because the Hodgman air mattress had a rope handle at the front, this was an easy target to grab as your best buddy was coming down the side of a really big wave. All you had to do was wait at the bottom of the wave until your best buddy was almost on top of you and then reach up with a stealthy and deft move of one hand, grab the rope and pull down.

The result was truly delightful. The nose of the surf mat at would dive down into the wave and your best buddy would begin a wonderful somersault in which he was completely turned upside down and then the wave would complete its work by driving your best buddy into the sand. It gave the phrase “pounding sand” true meaning. If this was done delicately enough, your best buddy would not see you at the bottom of the wave and he would be beginning the exhilarating thrill of being propelled down the side of the wave, only to find something has gone terribly wrong and instead charging 75 or 100 feet down the side of the wave towards the beach, your best buddy would be tumbling helter skelter in the wave soon to eat sand.

Nothing was more fun and hilarious than to bring your best buddy to doom. It was worth 5 minutes of hysterical laughter. And of course, if you were successful it would lead to retribution by your best buddy. When you are the receiving end of such an insult you quickly realize how little you can do about it and how quickly your fate is sealed, for suddenly a hand would emerge out of the deep, grab the rope every so gently and pull down. Sometimes, you would see part of a face emerge from the water just before disaster strikes. It would always be smiling. And then you find yourself tumbling helter skelter through the surf, soon to be ground into the sand.

Since the sand was just sand and not rocks, there was really never any damage to your body. Just your pride. You just tumbled through the surf, gasping for air, confused by what was going on, but never really hurt. Often you would emerge just in time to be crushed by yet another wave. And if the sabotage was exquisitely done, several waves would crush you in a row. No matter, it seemed that even the biggest waves and the most humiliating spills did nothing to harm you physically, aside from not being to breathe for short periods of time. In truth, all of us admired a good ambush as much as we loved a good ride.

So that is how we occupied our days on rough ocean days. And after we had been in the ocean two or three hours, we would come out for short time to sit on the beach and warm up in the sun. Even at that age, I still loved the sensation of laying directly on the sand and warming up on the toasty granules. For some reason I have never understood, the plague horseflies that sometimes infested the Bellport Beach Club, never affected Southampton. It was if some old stodgy, long dead Society matron stood invisible on the jetty to Shinnecock Inlet, 24 hours day, all summer long, saying, “Halt thou vile horseflies, you are not permitted beyond this jetty. This beaches are consigned to families of good standing and upright moral character, not foul black insects with green heads that consort with horse manure.”

On calm ocean days, we would go to the Meadow Club and play several sets of tennis. And some days, we would hang out as a group, chit-chatting endlessly about inconsequential things, like whose party to go that night, whose house. It was a carefree life and I enjoyed for five or six summers before doing anything remotely serious. Unlike many kids, who when they got to be 16 or 18, immediately took a summer job, I never worked during the summer. No, I spent 100% of my time playing tennis, swimming in the ocean and going out to parties in the evening.

When I was just 14 there were not many parties to go to, but by the time I got to be 16, I came to hang around in a more sophisticated group of kids. Most these kids came from really rich families. I will not name names, but many were the sons and daughters of some of America’s great industrial and financial companies. As such these kids had money on their own. Not only money, but when they came to be 18 or 19, also nifty little sports cars. XKE Jaguars, little Porches, Corvettes, Mustangs, Mercedes Roadsters. Everybody that is except me. I had almost no money and only occasional driving rights to my parents Nash Ambassador. No matter, I hung in with my peers, even if I could not keep with their level of luxury.

One of the things we used to do was go to beach parties. This was a time in Southampton when the west end of Dune Road was just dunes. Today, those dunes are covered with billionaire homes and there is no public access to what were dunes and to the ocean itself. In those days, however, the dunes were wide open and just about anybody could go there. Rich, poor, male, female, young or old, black, white, Asian, green, pink, anybody could park on Dune Road and walk over the dunes to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

In the early days, we would bring transistor radios that did not sound great and some beer that did taste great, even if it was not. We would be in somebody’s house, doing nothing, and somebody would suggest going to the beach for an impromptu party and that is what we would do. 20 or 30 of us would mount up in various vehicles, some very sporty and luxurious, others very simple and functional like the Nash Ambassador that I borrowed from my parents and off we would go, first to pick up beer and munchies, and then to the beach, armed with a hopelessly underpowered transistor radio. Whatever, we always had fun, even if it was a long walk across the dunes and a long walk back.

In later days, these beach parties became more elaborate as some of my fellow buddies came into more money, they would hire a band, round up lobsters, hamburgers and hotdogs and get a cases of beer or kegs, depending on the size of the celebration and then we would all migrate to the beach for a real party complete with funky band, sodas and beer, food and snacks. On those occasions we would gather driftwood and light a huge bonfire. Then we would gather round the fire to listen to the band or the radio and maybe even dance on the beach. And sometimes we would go skinny-dipping in the ocean.

Swimming in the ocean naked at night was exciting because you could not really see the waves that well and you felt kind of unprotected and vulnerable. I mean what might happen if a crab went nipping? Another question was the waves. They just rose up out of nowhere and crushed you if you were not careful. Still another interesting aspect of swimming in the ocean at night was the phosphorous, which was all about you and which lit up, like millions of underwater fireflies, whenever you took a stroke swimming.

At the end of each summer, hurricanes would take aim at Long Island and make their run. Often the hurricanes missed Long Island by hundred of miles, but even if they did, there would be days when the surf got really big. Often on these days, because a hurricane was passing by, the wind would shift around to the Northwest or Northeast and you would have an offshore wind.

Now, as many people know, the surf on Long Island is generally small and choppy. Usually you get a Southwest wind in the afternoons and a chop would rise up. The surf could get to 3 or 4 feet, but generally not much higher. And because these waves were essentially wind blown, they would be sloppy, not break evenly and not have a clear defined shape. Sometimes, in the summer, a set would come in and the waves would rise out nowhere from almost nothing to 6 or 8 feet in a matter of minutes. That would be because some waves were reaching us from some offshore storm which could be hundreds or thousands of miles away.

In late August or mid September, when the hurricane season was underway, then the really big swells could come in and they could be 12 or 14 feet under certain conditions. And if there was an offshore wind, the waves would take on much more defined shapes, more associated with the West Coast or Hawaii. The offshore wind would clean up the shape of the waves and they would come rolling in and as they came to rise up and break, with great white wisps of water and mist being pushed back off of the top of the waves by the wind. This was when the waves could be at their highest and have the most defined and clean shape. They were beautiful to behold.

As I and my friends became better mat surfers, we would begin to ride the waves that broke offshore on sandbars a quarter to a half mile offshore. Usually, we would just ride waves inshore. These were short but fast. The waves out on the sandbars beyond the first break, were generally larger, better formed and far more powerful, especially if there was a hurricane within two or three hundred miles. Then the waves could be really impressive.

Getting out to the sandbars where those waves broke took a lot of effort on the old Hodgman air mats because those air mattresses were pretty thick and rectangular in shape. It was not like paddling a surfboard out which cuts through waves far easier and can be paddled far faster. So It was hard paddling surf mats out to the sandbars and getting beyond were the waves broke was even more arduous and sometimes very frustrating. Often as you got close to the big waves a big wave would catch you and knock you back 200 or 300 feet, giving you a long and quite unexpected ride that you really did not want.

To get the ride you wanted, you had to catch the wave at the top of the crest just as it was breaking and ride it all the way down the curve of the wave and beyond. So getting knocked back 200 or 300 feet, when you had not caught the wave as it was breaking was not what you wanted. Again, it was not easy to paddle back and often you would get knocked back towards the shore again and again. The Hodgman surf mats had great buoyancy which floated you above the water, but that also meant the wave could push you back to where you came from very easily. It took a lot of determination and a lot of energy to paddle your way through the break of the waves on a sandbar and beyond where the waves actually broke.

So a great deal of effort was expended in just getting into position to catch a wave. My friends and myself did go out to the sandbar waves whenever the waves were large enough. Once you were out there, it also took time and judgment to catch a wave. You could easily squander all your efforts to get out there on a wave that either was not worthy of your efforts or was more worthy than you realized. On the not worthy waves, you would get a slow disappointing ride that kind of fizzled out. On the more worthy waves than you realized, the wave would break in front of you before you could actually catch it and come roaring down on you and it might give you a fast and very bumpy ride.

Often such a wave would wipe you out, throwing you off the mat and sending it shoreward. And then you might have to swim two or three hundred feet to get to your surf mat. And by the time you did that, you were one tired puppy and you probably reconsidering your judgment to come out there in the first place. Sometimes, if a wave broke just behind you and if you acted quick enough, turning to get into position and then paddling hard to catch the wave, you could get a pretty great ride, even if often had a very bumpy start, bouncing you up and down three or four feet at a time, until you finally landed on the surface of the wave and started to skim down it like you were supposed. That could be a really great ride.

One of the disconcerting things that would occur from time to time was that you would look down and you would notice 5 or 6 sharks swimming below. Now it was generally 10 to 15 feet deep where the sandbars were and most of the time you could see the bottom clearly if there were no waves breaking at the moment. And that was then we would see the sharks.

To fair these were not big sharks and more importantly, they seemed to have no interest us. They just seemed to like to swim below where we were floating. When we first saw these sharks, we tried to figure out how to get our bodies completely on top the 28″ x 42″ Hodgman surf mats. That was not easy. The only successful way to do that was to kneel. That worked for a while but it could become uncomfortable kneeling for long periods. Over time, as we came to realize that the sharks had no real interest in us and we would lay down on the mats, our legs dangling in the ocean water, ready meat for the sharks below.

We found out from our local lifeguard that these were sand sharks and that generally they were harmless. That is not to say that there were not other sharks swimming in the same water who had a more material interest in our body parts. Some years later a Great White Shark was caught off of Montauk. It was 25′ long and apparently had a ready appetite for humans. No matter, we were never molested in our surfing endeavors and no one I knew ever got bitten by a shark or suffered any bodily harm that I know of from surfing the outer sandbars.

One year a hurricane came near the Hamptons and brushed us with 40 or 50 mile an hour winds. The next day I went out and decided that I was going to surf the outer break with a couple of friends. The surf was bigger than I had ever seen it. In shore 14′ to 15′ waves were breaking. Overnight the wind had turned around to the Northeast and was blowing offshore. This had the effect of knocking down the waves slightly and giving them almost a perfect surfing shape. They were majestic rollers rising up and rolling in. There was no chop, only the clean curve of the mountainous waves as they rolled in.

I know by Pacific standards, these were not the truly large waves that sometimes came to Hawaii and the West Coast, but they were truly humongous by East Coast standards. So I and two other buddies mounted up and headed out on our trusty Hodgman mats. Just getting through the shore break took some doing. You had to wade out two or three hundred feet to get to the break and to dive repeated times holding on to your surf for dear life. In doing so, we would have to dive into the waves backward and pulling our surf mats with us through the giant waves. Often the wave would still catch us and pull us back 30 or 40 feet, but we kept at it and eventually we made it through the shore break.

Once outside the shore break we could paddle to the outer sandbar which was almost a half mile offshore. I should at this point mention that the offshore wind had the advantage of aiding us paddling out to the second break, but that was also a terrible hazard. If we got tumbled in the surf and separated from our mats, we could easily have our surf mats blown out to sea by the strong offshore wind. This was not only inconvenient, it was dangerous, because it was highly unlikely we could swim and catch out surf mats. So, if we did get separated from the mats, we would have to make the half mile swim to shore at a time when we were particularly exhausted from our surfing efforts. Fortunately, that did not happen to us. We were aware of the conditions and we held on to our mats literally for dear life.

So out we went, three teenagers, between 15 and 17, paddling to the get out beyond the second break. The second break by the sandbar proved to be far more difficult than the shore break. That was because when you were paddling out, in the ten to twenty feet of water we were in, there was no way to dive under a breaking wave. The idea was to paddle like hell and get out beyond the sandbar break. This was difficult because the waves broke a good 500 feet in front of you. So you could paddle for 50 or 100 feet and then a wave would come rolling towards you. Then you would have to decide. Which was easier. To roll off of your mat and hold onto the rope or to paddle right into the breaking wave and hope it did not take you too far back. I tried both methods. Getting off the mat and holding onto the mat generally resulted in less loss of territory, but both involved losses of territory that you had paddled hard to get beyond.

This process proved so difficult that my two friends headed back, giving up on the effort. But I was made of sterner stuff. There was something in me that would not allow me to quit. So I continued to try and plow my way out beyond where the waves broke. It took me a good 45 minutes of fighting forward, being knocked back and then fighting forward again, to just get beyond that second break, but I finally succeeded. I took a ten minute rest just beyond where the breakers were.

This finally put me in a position to catch a wave. Now I was out just beyond where the waves were breaking I began to realize just how enormous they were. As they rolled, I had the feeling that I was floating over and under mountains. When on top of the rolling wave came, I could see all other rollers coming in the distance beyond, then as the wave passes, I would fall into the valley between the two waves and it would seem like being between two mountains in motion. In front of me was giant wall, behind me was a giant wall. And these walls, rolling under me, rising up and then rolling by. When you were between two walls, it was almost dark in the valley and all you could see above you was blue sky, while the two walls enclosed you, with no sun in the valley.

Somewhere about that time, it occurred to me that this was probably not a very good idea. I was out beyond second break. There was a stiff 20 or 30 mile offshore wind attempting to blow me to England. I had to keep a close watch on the shore to be sure I was not being blown out to sea. I also had to keep a sharp eye on the incoming waves to be sure they were not going to break and not pummel me into the deep. It was a tricky situation because I also knew I had to catch the crest of a wave if was to get a good ride. So I hung out there for almost another 45 minutes waiting for the perfect wave.

And then it came, a Mount Everest among the Himalayas. When I saw it, I was not sure it would even break. Then it started to rise and rise. It was an easy 20′ from the bottom of the wave to the crest of the wave, which was not yet breaking. At that time, I was about 5′ 6″, all of 130 lbs., riding on this 28″ x  42″ surf mat. I turned toward shore and started paddling not sure if I was to far in or not close enough to catch the wave. Meanwhile the coming wave continued to rise up, like some elemental force of God.

I caught the wave about 4 feet from the crest, but the crest had not broken. Below me was the moving 16′ deep valley. The wave caught me, I was at about 60 degree downward angle as I was suddenly propelled down the side of the wave. And then it did something no other wave ever did to me before. It threw me out 20 or 30 feet ahead the wave before it even broke. And then it did break. At first I was still being propelled ahead of the wave, skimming over the surface at a tremendous speed with no apparent form of propulsion. And then the breaking wave broke, the top 8 feet of the wave turning into a 6 foot wall of white foam. The 6 foot wall of whitewater caught up to me and thrust me forward. I had to hold on to that surf mat with all my strength. Somehow I emerged from the wall of white and again found myself skimming over the surface of the wave 20′ ahead of the breaking, foaming white wall, apparently with no source of propulsion.

Soon the source caught up with me and shot me forward again, skimming ahead of the breaking wave, as if carried forward by an invisible force.

This recurrence of the breaking wave catching up with me and then spitting me out ahead occurred 5 or 6 times before the actual breaking wave caught up and carried me forward as I bounced up and down 400 or 500 feet on the breaking crest of the wave. This was, without question, the most exciting ride of my life on an ocean wave and I will never forget it. The terror and exhilaration and adrenalin mixed in equal parts and with fear and joy and infatuation as I raced down the side of that wave.

I have no doubt that the surfers of today experience far more exhilaration and fear and astonishment on the many rides surfers get on far bigger waves, but my ride was before the time people used surfboards widely and for me, at that time, it was the most exciting thing I had ever done.

I spent summers in Hamptons from the time was 14 to the time I was 22. During this period I graduated from a Catholic Prep School, Portsmouth Priory, spent two years flunking out of The University of Virginia, two years getting back into The University of Virginia and two years graduating. This was a fairly standard method of curriculum going to The University of Virginia since it happened to be known as America’s biggest party school. It was also known for having a pretty high standard of academic training, especially if you went to classes. I found the freedom of that school literally too intoxicating, but I was able to get back in and I was able to eventually graduate in Philosophy, a course of learning that proved to be of dubious use in my father’s business selling fishing lures and inflatable boats.

After College

No matter, I graduated and after some sharp career changes – Clam Digger, journalist, newspaper delivery man, script writer – I went into my father’s business. The year was 1968 and that year was the same year that my father purchased an inflatable boat company. His theory was if he could sell dress forms, paint brushes, fishing lures, TV repair books, fertilizer, dance lessons, surely he could also sell inflatable boats. After all, inflatable boats were reasonably small and came in boxes and you could use that new delivery service, UPS, to deliver our boats. He was right.

At that time, my father’s main business was mostly fishing lures and ladies’ dress forms. Of course, there were a few other odd products – AutoCast fishing rods which had an internal spring to cast fishing lures about 30 feet, Lure Glow, a kind of toxic glow powder, that made fishing lures luminous (“Illegal in 13 States” was my father’s brilliant headline copy), Addiators, a mechanical precursor of calculators, that added and subtracted with a hand stylus and now inflatable boats.

Admittedly, it was an odd collection of goods, but my father was a true marketing genius and, one way or another, he found ways to sell all of these odd products. But the moral of this part of the story is that I now found something to get interested in because now my father had this weird inflatable business. One of my first duties in my father’s business was to write copy for a catalog on the boats and get pictures taken of the inflatable boats.

Now for someone who all his life had only known about rigid boats, the whole concept of inflatables seemed crazy. However, after paddling and trying out these boats for a few weeks I began to get the idea. Here were boats you could pack in your car, store in closet, keep in garage, that you could take out, blow up in a few minutes and literally go paddling. It was and still is a whole different concept of boating. The hardest point to get my head around was fact that inflatable boats actually worked and could be used in many different ways.

So I spent some time just getting to understand the new business and the meaning of inflatable boats. The particular meaning to me was that I now had a whole bunch of reasons go boating and to use these new boats. And of course, because we had bought the boat business, I had the boats to do all this.

Well, one thing led to another you might say. I went to work for my father. My cousin, who was not sure what to do after college, came and did a stint in my father’s business. We moved into a little rental house on Lake Panamoka in Wading River. Of course, we brought some of our new inflatable canoes to the house and every evening if it was not raining, we went paddling on the lake. Not long after to moving into that house we met my wife to be and after some little tussle between my cousin and myself, I ended up with a new girlfriend and my future wife, Ginny Whitehead. That proved to be convenient because she lived three houses down from the house my cousin and I had rented. So my future father, mother, brother and sister-in-laws were nearby.

Not long after that my cousin decided he wanted to become a lawyer and he went off to law school in Washington. That left me with the house and my new girlfriend. We got married after a few years, moved to another part of Wading River into a very cool, very tiny house situated on Cliff Road, coincidently over-looking a 100 foot cliff out to Long Island Sound. There again, I brought along my boats even though it was logistically difficult to do, since you had to climb up and down a 100 foot cliff. Eventually I built a wooden stairway to make that somewhat more practical.

As I got more involved in my father’s business I naturally migrated towards the boat business because it gave me an excuse to do things on the water. I started to take the boats out to get pictures and started to write copy for catalog because we had none. Now, I had been an amateur photographer for sometime, but in truth, the emphasis should be on amateur. So the first thing really needed to do was find a photographer. I enlisted my new cousin, Freddy Havemeyer, and he took the first shots of our products on the water. That forced me how to learn to write copy and advertisements.

Having spent all my life inculcated with advertising, I had naturally absorbed something before even starting. As I started working on little ads and little brochures, I learned how to get photographs taken (not difficult, you tell someone to take pictures and then watch them take pictures), how to get ads laid out (you give a layout artist some words and some pictures), how to get catalogs laid out (you give the same layout artist more words and more pictures). In truth there more to it than that, but my father’s business came with built-in relationships with photographers and layout artists. It was not hard to find your way. Start at A and go to B.

Now when it came to my father’s other businesses, I did not find them particularly interesting at first. I came to understand them and to do reasonably good work in them, but they definitely were not my passion. I can’t say that inflatable boats were passion, but they were a whole lot closer. Why? Because doing ads and catalogs for them meant we had to go out on the water, take pictures and use the boats. And as I came to understand and appreciate them better, I began to really like being in the boat business.

Me Running the Chatooga River in Georgia

Me Running the Chatooga River in Georgia

So after meeting my wife in Wading River and moving from Lake Panamoka in Wading River to Cliff Road in Wading River, one thing remained constant. We went out boating. And when we moved to Cliff Road, my wife met a couple who came to be our best friends. I had been in Europe visiting our new French supplier of inflatable boats when my wife told me she met this really neat couple and when I came back I would love to meet them. And that’s what I did.

By this time, I had already been producing ads and catalogs, mostly with the help of my new cousin-in-law, Freddy Havemeyer who became our boat photographer for a while. When I got back, I met the couple down the street, Michael and Joellen Schillaci. And my wife was right. They were a really neat couple. Michael was a Vietnam vet, and presently a spackler in the construction trade. He and Joellen had recently married, she was an art student and a recent college graduate.

I introduced Michael and Joellen to our boats and soon we were taking weekend camping trips. One of our first photography trips was running a river in Pennsylvania in our kayaks.  I told Michael and Joellen about taking our kayaks down the Youghieheny River and showed them the pictures. That was enough to get them interesting in trying river running. Pretty soon we were taking river trips down various local rivers.

It is strange how people influence other people. My wife, who had been making jewelry for a few years, introduced Joellen jewelry design. I, who been getting boat photographs taken for a few years, introduced Michael to photography. One thing led to another and over time, JoEllen started making her own jewelry and Michael started taking photographs. In a few years, Michael became a photographer of our boats and Joellen became a full time jewelry designer.

Running The Farmington River

Running The Farmington River

For the next 30 years, our lives were kind of entwined. We went off for numerous river and camping trips using our boats on lakes and rivers. Michael became our photographer and pretty soon we were organizing river trips and camping trips to take pictures all around the Northeast. My wife Ginny and Joellen started doing jewelry together. Each spring and summer we would go off on these river and camping trips, 10 to 15 people, gathering together boats, food, drink and heading off to the mountains and running a river or setting up a camping scene in which we all participated. It became a kind of lifestyle.

Strong’s Neck

After living in Wading River, first on Lake Panamoka, then on Cliff Road overlooking Long Island Sound, I found a new, somewhat bigger house in Strong’s Neck, a part of Setauket, on the North Shore of Long Island. One thing remained a constant – we were still living on the water. This time, instead having lake right outside your back porch or Long Island Sound down a 100 foot cliff, I had bay in my backyard about 100 feet from our new house.

Me in 2015 on a Kayak I Designed

Me in 2015 on a Kayak I Designed

This is the house that we ended up living for the last forty years and it continued what I had been doing since I was about two – that is, it continued my life and love affair with water. Many things have changed over those forty years, but what has not changed is that I still go kayaking or rowing or swimming or boating whenever those activities are possible. Now, you might think that is a June to September activity, but in fact I go boating all year. My only rule is not to go boating when the ice freezes over the bay. That makes January and February often difficult, but even then I usually able to paddle or row 5 or 10 times in each of those months. The rest the year I go more often, usually 5 days a week, weather and tide permitting.

Circumnavigating Long Island.

One the many interesting experiences that I have had over the years was to follow a guy who chose to row around Long Island in order to raise money to support cancer research – a kind of strange quest in itself. Each of those trips took 8 to 10 days to go around Long Island. Why did it take so long? Well, for one thing, Long Island is pretty long – about 120 miles long and about 300 miles to circumnavigate when you go in and out of its many harbors and bays and inlets. For another thing, the guy I was following (Rick Shalvoy was his name), although in peak physical condition, was still human, so the fastest he could row was about 4 or 5 miles per hour. And that was with the wind and tide at his back. On some occasions Rick actually went into reverse when wind and tide were not co-operating.

On those trips I was the support boat and, as such, I carried enough water, food, radios, gas and electronic equipment to complete the whole trip, if I had to. And although I never had too, I had numerous run-ins with the natural elements of nature and I came to have a strong appreciation of how alone a human could be if you got into a little trouble, even if you were just a half mile offshore from a beach crowded with beach-goers. In doing these trips, I came to know and understand and to respect the many different waterways that surround Long Island.

I did that for 10 years in a row and each time it was an interesting and new experience for me. I have written a pretty long story on those experiences in this blog entitled “Circumnavigating Long Island Ten Times”, so I will not dwell on all the gory details, but suffice to say these experiences expanded and enhanced my other experiences in, on and around the water. Long Island, as seen from the water, is, in my opinion, a whole different place than Long Island, as seen from the land.

Why?

You may ask why anyone would write such a long article about going on the water? What is important about that? Well, it is important to me and I have a theory about that. This may be where my college degree in philosophy comes into play.

Here is my theory. I think we live in two worlds – the inside world that we work, play and sleep in and the outside world that we pass through and occasionally observe. To me the real world is the outside world. To me the artificial world is the inside world. I believe I get my almost daily exposure to outside world by going paddling or rowing and I believe it gives me another view of the world. It is a view that I believe cleanses me and makes me aware of what is really around me.

Now you can go for a bicycle ride or a jog and yes you are outside, but what will you see? Roads, houses, buildings, driveways, telephone poles, cars, all supporting characters in the inside world. And while it is true you will see houses, boats and other people on the water, you will also see wide horizons and bays and birds and sunny, blue skies and wet, gray days, hot sometimes, cool sometimes, cold sometimes. To me that is the true world.

Of course that experience can be further improved on by taking trips and paddling or rowing or sailing on truly remote and beautiful waterways. And yes, there still is a lot of real world out there. And guess what? You are free to go anytime you wish.

This is very important me. I feel if we lose contact with what I call the real world, we will inevitably destroy it. And if we inevitably destroy it, in doing so we will inevitably destroy ourselves. So I think that is important and should be remembered and understood by all.

 

 

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Cecile and Freddy Find Love

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by Cecil Hoge

It never occurred to me that it was possible for my friend, Freddy Havemeyer, to fall in love with my cousin, Cecile Hoge. Quite simply, I just never would have put the two together. I would have thought that the two were mutually exclusive.

Frederick Havemeyer the III came from an extremely wealthy and well-known family. His great grandfather and his grandfather had controlled 90% of the sugar coming into the United States. In the 1800s several Havemeyers had been mayors of New York City.

At the time I met Freddy he was not one of those Havemeyers concerned with wealth accumulation. His family’s wealth had been secured generations before Freddy and it was not thought to be necessary for anyone in his family to work. And in fact, no one in his family had worked for 2 generations. Freddy was not a playboy, but he certainly made a good imitation of one.

He drove around in a wonder sports car of the day, a little green Porsche, if I remember correctly. Although this car held just 2 passengers, it had an extremely large motor and sleek undulating lines. When you sat in the passenger seat, it seemed like the hood disappeared and a great expanse of the road was immediately in front of you. Usually, I was not the passenger. That pleasure was reserved for Helene Fagin, a tanned beauty whose lithe figure adorned alternately Freddy’s Porshe or the beach or the pool of the Southampton Bathing Corporation.

Freddy met Cecile in 1969. It was after Freddy and Helene had split up and I remember it was one of the years we were in the Zirinsky house. Our group of families (3 Hoges and 1 Obolensky) had been sharing house rentals in Southampton for over 20 years and Zirinsky house was the grandest one of them all. It had 13 or 14 bedrooms and was plopped down on 2 acres of Southampton’s finest non-beachfront real estate on First Neck Lane, about a half a mile from the Meadow Club.

With 4 families and rooms loaded with aunts, uncles and cousins, this arrangement was not quite legal except for the fact that we were all related. Needless to say, the Zirinsky house was full night and day. As my aunt Helene said, “Even the house guests have house guests.” This was because all members of our families would invite house guests for the weekend who in turn would extend invitations to other house guests.

To say that it was a busy house with odd comings and goings would understate the odd comings and odd goings. This was the end of the Sixties, that exuberant and odd period of time of micro mini skirts and alternative substances. A nice feature of the Zirinksy property was that it had a small cottage in the back where I and my alternative cousins would retire from time to time while the elder members of the family enjoyed the traditional pleasures of the cocktail hour. In short, it was a confused period and a wonderful summer.

If am right, the exact moment Freddy discovered that I had a cousin named Cecile was on the lawn of the Zirinsky house one early evening when we were engaged in our favorite before dinner activity, when several of us guys were sipping beers on the front lawn and throwing a Frisbee back and forth and Cecile came bouncing out of some boyfriend’s car that had just sped onto the nearby driveway. It was unusual that Freddy was there because Freddy was generally not fond of beer or Frisbee, but such were the strange aspects of fate.

Freddy turned to me and said, if I remember correctly, “Who is she?”

Those three simple words marked the nano second when I believe Freddy was smittten by Cecile. I explained she was my cousin. There was some conversation from Freddy asking where she had come from. In this case, I think she had just arrived from the city for a weekend in the country, bringing a boyfriend who was, you guessed it, a house guest. Freddy seemed awestruck that he had never noticed Cecile before, although he vaguely remembered her as that thin, gangly and giggly teenybopper who hung out with Hope Cromwell.

But Cecile, while still thin, was no longer gangly and giggly. She had filled out and had become, as happens with many a young girl, a beautiful young woman. And Freddy noticed.

It seemed like only week later Freddy showed up one day when Cecile happened to be without her boyfriend. And then it seemed like it was only a week after that they started to go out. And then, after yet another week, it seemed to me they became a couple. And after that, Cecile and Freddy were simply inseparable. And within a year they were man and wife.

Now Freddy, being the scion to a wealthy family where no one had worked in generations was somewhat bewildered as to what to do. He tried various things, none of which were designed to actually earn a living. The idea was to find something that was compatible with what he liked and did not break the cardinal rule of the family – Thou shalt not work. It was not easy being a Havemeyer.

For a while he was a captain of a charter boat, but that career waned when he recognized that it was considered part of the job to provide some entertainment for his clients. Entertainment on a fishing boat generally consisted of telling stories about fishing, providing sandwiches and ample quantities of beer. For Freddy, that was a little over the top. Catching giant Marlin way out to sea was fine, even catching smaller, less elegant fish was fine, but feeding and liquoring up his clientele was not what he had signed on for.

So that job ended and Freddy took up another idea. This time he would be a photographer. Freddy decided to do it right. He landed a job as one of Richard Avedon’s photography assistants. Not a bad place to start. So Freddy began working with one of the greatest living photographers in the country.

It so happened at this time I was working in my father’s business and had begun my career in trying to sell inflatable boats. One of our problems was that we did not have any catalog, only a few products and the leftover inventory of my father’s new partner, a Frenchman named Guy Rabion. Somehow it fell to me to write, design and get the new catalog photographed. Since Freddy was already in the photography business and now officially a relative, I asked him if he wanted to be our photographer.

Freddy thought this might be a good opportunity since he had mostly worked in studios and had not done a lot of outdoor photography. I had seen some of Freddy’s photography and I thought he already was a great photographer. So off we went.

I gathered up a gaggle of long-legged female cousins, some male cousins, some college buddies, some girlfriends of theirs and they became our models of the moment. This was a low budget affair. Models got beer or soda and sometime eats. We did pay Freddy some money for his time and film, but nothing up to Havemeyer standards. But considering the fact that it was almost forbidden for Freddy to work and he has interested in getting outdoor experience, this setup seemed to work for both of us.

At first we went to shoot at local bays and beach locations setting up mock camping shots of our family and friends frolicking by the water, in and out of our kayaks, sometimes even trying to ride them in the surf. Since no one was actually working and everybody was not in a rush, we just took our time and spent weeks getting shots other people might get in a day or two.

The pictures were beautiful. Freddy had a real sense of light, of setting up the shot and getting everybody to look like they were happy and not look like it was staged. Cecile acted as Freddy’s assistant, carrying film, cameras and other photography gear, coming over to bring makeup to my cousins who did not want it and adjusting their hair in ways they considered unnecessary.

Miraculously, it all worked. We decided to go on 2 more ambitious photography shoots – one to the Rappahanick River in Virginia and one to the Youghiogheny River, known as the “Yawk” to whitewater fans, in Pennsylvania, near Pittsburg. Our plan was to shoot yacht-tending pictures using our boats on the Rappahanick and whitewater shots of our kayaks running the mighty “Yawk”.

It was on these trips that I came to know Freddy and Ceal as a couple. Ceal was the nickname that Cecile preferred. Freddy and Ceal always stayed close to each other and would whisper little jokes and sweet nothings to each other. They were obviously completely in love.

Freddy and Ceal moved at their own pace and never rushing anything. Often they came after cousins and friends had inflated all the boats and gathered all the props and often Freddy and Ceil arrived after all the “models” had gotten ample warmup time. It was understood, love could not be rushed. And truly all my cousins, family and friends held them in awe because Freddy and Ceal seemed so obviously right for each other.

When we went down to Virginia to take pictures on the Rappahanick River, near the ocean. Mostly these were yacht tending shots, using my buddy Rich Miller’s parent’s sailboat. My cousins and college mates would row and motor around the 40′ sailboat, pretending they were yachting while Freddy snapped pictures and Ceal held props.

In the evening we would go back to Rich’s parents’ guest house, cook hamburgers or spaghetti and drink beer and play Yahtzee. Freddy and Ceal were not the beer and hamburger type. They would drink sparkling water and munch on various kinds of salads. Invariably, Freddy and Ceal would slink off just after dinner to be with themselves. Maybe, they would stick around long enough to make some remarks about the weather.

“Front’s moving in,” Ceal would say to Freddy.

Freddy would look deeply at an approaching cloud bank, “Yes, Ceal,” Freddy would say, “It won’t be long now before the wind shifts to out of the Northwest. It’s going to get cool tonight.”

“Your right Freddy, it’s going to be chilly”.

Those were the words they said, but I knew those words had a whole different meaning for Freddy and Cecile.

Here is what I think they really said to each other.

“Freddy, I love you more than any woman can love any man.”

“I know that Ceal, I will love you always and forever. I do not know what I would have done if I had not found you.”

“Well, it is good thing it going to be chilly tonight.”

“Why, Ceal?”

“Because I am going to keep you warm tonight.”

And then they would smile blissfully at each other and their hands would find each other and in a few moments they would be gone for the evening.

Of course, I cannot say if my translation of their words is accurate, but I am pretty sure my interpretation captured the drift of their feelings.

So Freddy and Ceal would sneak off to be alone with love on their minds and we would play Yatzee raucously late into the evening deleting many a beer.

Freddy and Ceal accompanied us to Pennsylvania to film our efforts to go down the mighty Youghiogheny River. I had never actually paddled our inflatable kayaks on white water, but I figured it could be too different from the ocean surf I romped in every summer. That turned out to be partially right.

We had acquired a customer on the mighty Youghiogheny River, a white water rental company and the owner had convinced me that I had to come down and check out the river and get some pictures. So off we went, Freddy and Ceal, some college buddies with girlfriends, me and my wife Virginia. It was quite a crew, I, my wife and college buddies, their girlfriends, all in faded jeans and Freddy in the fine traditional of Hampton wear, red Lilly Pulitzer trousers, pink knit Alligator shirt and Gucci moccasins, Ceal in mauve summer blouse, white micro skirt and white high heels.

We checked into the local motel which might make a Super 8 proud and headed out for steak, fries and beer. Ceal and Freddy sipped club soda, nibbled on some kind of salad and discussed incoming weather fronts (not really).

The next day we went out to reconnoiter spots to shoot. The Youghiogheny River makes a loop through the little town we were staying in, so it was possible to walk from the put in on one side of the town to the take out about a half a mile away on the other side town. We checked out several spots, everything looked good and then we retired to beer and burgers, except for Freddy and Ceal who sipped club soda and tested the local salads available. I gathered from the expressions on their faces Freddy and Ceal did not think too highly of the available cuisine or frankly, of our enthusiasm for local dining and drinking.

I should have been a little sensitive to the possible pitfalls of this shoot when after lunch we decided to give the river a final look see before goofing off for the rest of day. We went down to river to see what we were subjecting ourselves to. Freddy and Ceal came along, cameras and exposure meters in hand. When we got down to riverside, Freddy took off his Guccis to stick his toe in the water and handed Ceal his camera and light meter. That proved to be a good move. This is where we discovered there are some differences between an ocean beach and a river’s edge.

I didn’t really see how it happened. Freddy was closer to the river and sticking toes into some obviously shallow water. I turned away and heard Freddy say,

“I wonder how deep it is?”

I turned around when I heard Ceal scream. It sounded as if someone had pushed her off the Empire State Building.

“Iiieeeeh!” screamed Ceal.

When I looked to see what the noise was for, I sensed something was wrong, but I was not sure what. And then it dawned on me. Where was Freddy? The only evidence of his presence was some small bubbles on water just out from where Freddy had been standing. Almost immediately Freddy emerged, soaking wet, his Lilly Pulitzer trousers a sad, soggy tale, his pink knit shirt now dripping gallons of water. At first Freddy was not able to get out because he had just come to realize he was in water way over his head – something not easy since Freddy was an easy 6′ 3″ in his bare feet. Then, to the relief of Ceal, he grabbed a nearby boulder and managed to pull himself out.

I was impressed. He had the foresight not to wear the Guccis and he had also handed off his camera and light meter to Ceal. Freddy was not so happy – he was wet, cold and embarrassed – this sort of thing does not happen to Havemeyers. Cecile was just happy that the love of her life was back on the planet.

I should have known that this might be some kind of hint of things to come. The next day started out perfectly. The weather was glorious and we were all ready for our first experience of white water as models. Fred and Ceal stopped by the put in point. Freddy was now showered, dry and looking fit and trim in a new pair bright green Lilly Pulitzer pants handsomely framed out with yellow shirt and, you guessed it, Gucci moccasins.

The plan was simple enough – Freddy and Ceal would walk around to the appointed shoot location which overlooked some pretty nasty white water rapids. We would paddle down the river about a half mile, wait 45 minutes and then shoot down that particular section, which was known to the locals as “the washing machine”.

Freddy and Ceal set off hand in hand, loads of photographic gear slung over their shoulders. We started down the river. The problem with rivers, as I soon found out, is that many spots look almost identical and while I had clear idea in my mind of what I thought was the proper starting point, as I went down the river I soon realized that many spots looked almost the same.

So problem number one was we did not actually know where we supposed to wait for Freddy and Ceal. No matter, we stopped somewhere we thought appropriate, waited 45 minutes, and then resumed our journey. Pretty soon we came upon the dread “Washing Machine”, charged through it, almost immediately flipping our fine inflatable kayaks. Before we knew it, we were in the town, by the take out.

All this would have been fine if Freddy and Ceal had been at the shoot location, ready to capture our haphazard efforts in glorious Kodachrome. Unfortunately, Freddy and Ceal were nowhere to be seen.

To this day, there is some dispute as to who should have been where, but I can only say for sure that Freddy and Ceal did what they thought they were supposed to do and we did what we thought we were supposed to do. I might suggest that Freddy and Ceal could have moved a little faster, but Freddy and Ceal were officially Havemeyers at that point and Havemeyers cannot be rushed.

But no matter, all’s well that ends well. The next day the weather was perfectly fine and we set out, wiser models, wiser white water paddlers and wiser photographer. We even did better going through “the washing machine”. I, myself, made it through at least once upright and 3 other times upright enough, for a few seconds, for Freddy to get a few shots in before I was wiped out. The result was some pretty spectacular white water shots, looking as if some of the paddlers actually knew what they were doing.

The trip to Pennsylvania and the trip to Virginia were times I got to know Freddy and Ceal best. It established in my mind not only when Freddy and Ceal met, but also what a truly loving relationship they enjoyed.

Ceal Havemeyer was active in many charitable fields

Ceal Havemeyer was active in many charitable fields

Now Freddy and Ceal enjoyed a long and successful marriage. Two beautiful children came from their marriage, Charlotte Havemeyer and Frederick Havemeyer, IV. Freddy the third, became a town supervisor and was well respected for his sensible and even-handed judgment in preserving the scenic beauty and environmental integrity the town’s waterways. Ceal went on to develop an unsuspected vocation of helping the needy, something you may not have guessed was at the forefront of her mind.

She became a longtime member of Southampton’s Town Anti-Bias Task Force initiating and pushing forward more fair hiring practices and Spanish-language signage and personnel at Southampton Hospital. She also promoted bus shelters for public transportation and the creation of playgrounds for children.

But that was only the beginning. She led drives to provide food and clothes for various disasters, including Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and 9/11 in New York. She worked for the preservation of various Southampton landmarks such as the Halsey House and the Parish Art Museum. She helped get local high school students tuition for college. In short, in contrast to the life she could have led, she worked many hours and many years to help the needy and to preserve the character and historical legacy of Southampton.

About a year ago Cecile found out that she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I should have known something was up because she gave me call while I was out having lunch. That was unusual because while often had conversation and contact at family gatherings, she rarely called me.

Cecile started the conversation very directly and simply. She wanted to know what kind of cancer my father had. That was curious I thought and then, without waiting for me to reply, she just blurted out the truth.

“Well, actually I am very sick and my doctor wants to know what history of cancer there is in our family.”

That of course came as a big shock. Cecile was not only beautiful girl and woman, she was a very beautiful and dignified lady. I knew she never was tinged with any of our family’s weaknesses. She almost never drank, she didn’t smoke, she ate health foods all her life.

I told Ceal that my father had Squamous Cell Skin Cancer for about 60 years and only late in life did it become serious and fatal.

“Well, that’s clear. There is no heredity connection to his cancer. I am dying. I have stage 4 pancreatic cancer. And there is nothing anyone can do about.”

It was a kind of brusque and brutal way to reveal her own condition, but it was totally honest and totally in keeping with the way she talked. Cecile was not a lady to mince words or to beat around the bush.

Of course, I was extremely saddened to hear about her cancer and I wished her what I wish all cancer patients – that the cancer was not terminal or as severe, that the doctors were wrong, that the doctors would find a cure.

Unfortunately, in Ceal’s case, the doctor’s were correct and Cecile was correct and the cancer did advance and, within a period six months the cancer became fatal.

Ceal persevered through the debilitating agonies of that disease and survived far longer than her doctors had predicted. At first they tried to give her chemotherapy. That almost killed her on the first application. Thereafter, Ceal refused all further medication and methodically went about setting her life in order, finishing her will, signing papers about what to do as death came near, planning her final journey to hospice where sphere could pass away in dignity outside of the constant observation of her family.

Cecile decided that she would not let her children know of her condition until her son Freddy had finished some course of business studies he was taking. She did not want to jeopardize his studies. She wanted it that way.

Cecile lived at home for the first several months of her disease and when the time came sho moved to the hospice she had chosen. She died at the age of 68, having lived a full life, dedicated to her husband, to her children and to the help and betterment of others.

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Some Were Short-Timers

My mother was a born hellion - this is her in 1920

My mother was a born hellion – this is her in 1920

 

By Cecil Hoge

Not so many years ago a Secretary of State blamed some attacks in Iraq on “pockets of dead-enders”. The Secretary of State was referring the fact that some of the attacks had been perpetrated by suicide bombers. This was after the then President Bush had declared the Iraq War as “mission accomplished”. I always thought that the reference to dead-enders was strange given the fact that, in the end, we all are dead-enders. Early or late, as an unknown poet once said, we stoop to fate. Sooner or later, the time comes for each of us to go.

Most of my family have lived reasonably long and full lives by this century’s standards. By that I mean most of our family members lived into their seventies or eighties and they got to do many things and enjoy their stay on earth. Only a few of us were what I will call short-timers.

If you were not aware, the lifespan of humans has greatly increased over the last 100 or so years. This is because of a number of factors…women and children are no longer dying in childbirth, the advent of penicillin and other antibiotics reduced or eliminated many infectious diseases, running water and clean lavatories prevented diseases, cleaner hospitals and newly developed treatments prevented death or prolonged life, the advent of central heating and cooling protected humans against hot and cold weather, the replacement of horses in cities by buses, trains and automobiles greatly reduced the amount of manure and urine on city streets. For these reasons and other reasons, we enjoy far longer lives than our earlier ancestors.

Despite the improvements in health and longevity in every family, some members die earlier than others and live far fewer years. I would like to mention a few members of my family who were not so lucky to live long, full and rewarding lives.

The first two short-timers that I will mention are two cousins, both the children of my aunt Diane. Diane Shewan was my mother’s sister and, for whatever reason, she did not marry well. Diane was a beautiful woman and grew up in luxury that was excessive even by today’s standards, so it may be hard to know why her marriage did not work out. As I understand it she liked to drink a lot and she married a man who liked to drink a lot. His name was Jack Munhall. He had been a soldier during World War II and he came back from World War II a shattered man with a great thirst. He was also a handsome shattered man and so it happened Diane fell in love with him and they became married and Diane became Diane Munhall.

From that marraige, came two children, Leslie and Jay. Jay was the younger of the two and in some ways his story is the sadder. While Diane had grown up in environment of great wealth, living 5 houses around the world, cruising around the U.S. and Europe in my grandfather’s three large yachts, her father, my grandfather, managed to spend almost all of his fortune in his own lifetime. And the man that Diane chose to marry turned out to be man unable to earn a living wage.

Within a relatively short period Diane went from great wealth to relative poverty. At first the newly married couple settled into a pretty comfortable apartment in the Seventies on the East Side of Manhattan. Leslie and Jay were born in that apartment and that is where they grew up. That apartment did not last long because it soon it became apparent that Jack Munhall had a real problem holding down jobs. I am not very familiar with the jobs he had, but as I remember it he started in public relations, had a good starting salary and then got canned after a couple of years. I gather Jack was noted for his inability to show up regularly during the week. Thereafter, jobs came and went with great regularity.

At one point, Jack, after losing several fairly good paying jobs, ended up working for my father in some capacity, but apparently that work was also too much for him. My father told me that one day Jack came into the office and said he was leaving. My father begged Jack, knowing his need of income, to stay on and give the job a chance. But Jack said no, he had leave that very moment and could not work a minute longer. My father told me later that Jack was having a “nervous breakdown”.

“Nervous breakdown” is not a term used very much these days, but in the fifties it was quite popular. Usually, it referred to someone reaching some kind of crisis point their life and then being unable to carry on and going literally insane for a short or long period. Today this condition happens often to people, but it often passes quite quickly and it is often not called a nervous breakdown. In Jack’s case, it resulted in Jack going off to an institution periodically to spend a few weeks or a few months there to get the courage to come back to the world and function.

As mentioned, nervous breakdowns still occur in this day and age, but usually they are called different names. Whatever the condition is called, most of the institutions that used to treat that type of condition are closed and have been replaced by psychiatrists who sit in local offices and prescribe various kinds of drugs to solve the condition.

Whatever the solution, then or now, the condition either goes away after one or two short episodes or persists and returns periodically. In Jack’s case, the condition tended to persist. He would come back as a new man, all confident in his abilities to deal with the world. Shortly thereafter, he would start drinking again, have more problems keeping a job and become ineffective in taking care of his family. Jack Munhall was a wonderful, caring, sensitive person and if you met him in a good period, it would never occur to you that he had problems. He was a handsome man with a sweet and tender smile. You tell sometimes that something was wrong because sometimes the sweet and tender smile would fade and curl downward as if some doubt had snuck into the corner of his mouth.

Within a relatively short time of coming out of one institution, Jack Munhall would have another breakdown and then return to some institution to try and solve it. In his case, the problem was never solved and he spent the rest of his life in and out of institutions.

That left Diane, who also enjoyed her drinks, as the wage-earner for the family. Diane was considerably more stable, if not more sober, and she was able to hold various jobs and bring in some income to her family. By this time, her once very rich father had passed on, leaving no inheritance, no yachts, no houses, no nothing, having spent it all in innumerable ways. This meant that Diane had to support her family on her relatively low paid job income and on Jack’s sometime income, if he happened to be functioning.

It was not many years before Jack stopped working altogether and ceased to provide any income for his family. Eventually, he dropped out of the picture and Diane was left to fend for herself and her family on a meager secretary’s salary. Because of the realities of their financial condition they moved to the West Side in the upper Eighties into a shabby apartment in a shabby neighborhood plagued with crime and poverty. This is where Jay and Leslie attended schools and grew up in their teens.

Jay was the first to start having difficulties. One day in their original East Side apartment Jay decided it would be a good idea to threaten his parents with suicide.     At that time, his parent were still operating as a relatively normal married couple. Jay decided that the best way to get attention was to threaten suicide and so he hung his body out of one their 7th floor apartment windows. Luckily, there was a iron grate installed on the window and it was difficult to simply jump off. Jay did get most of his body over the iron grate just before his mother grabbed him by his legs and pulled him back in. I do not think anybody ever found out why Jay wanted to commit suicide. He was obviously upset about something, but I never learned the reason. I was present in the apartment when this happened and I remember the episode fairly clearly.

Years later, I started hearing stories about him being unruly in school and sniffing glue. He was in 8th or 9th grade at the time. First Jay was temporarily kicked out of school for his unruly behavior. Pretty soon Jay was in and out of Juvenile Court. His grades were terrible. He was hanging out with a bad crowd and he was taking various kinds of drugs, the most popular of which seemed to be glue, primarily because it was so easy to obtain and so cheap.

To make a long story short, Jay was in and out of Juvenile Court, in and out of jails. Occasionally, he would be sent to a psychiatrist for evaluation. Invariably, they prescribed short stays in various institutions and various drugs to calm him down or stimulate him, depending on what they diagnosed the problem to be that week. As time went on and his life preceded, the treatment options changed, other drugs were proscribed to make him better. But after being in and out of jails and institutions and taking different kinds of drugs, some to make him better, some to make him worse, it all arrived at the same place. It seemed Jay was unable to get along with people and thereafter, he was sent to a correction facility in upstate, never to emerge.

Now Jay was a short-timer only in the sense that his workable life ended by the time he was 20. Today, he may actually still be alive. I do not know. In any case, his opportunities in life closed out before they began and before he had the opportunity to experience life, he was put away and kind of discarded.

His sister, Leslie, my other cousin, soon had problems herself, but these problems were different. She very pretty, very sexy and very confused. A striking and attracting feature of Leslie was that fact that she had a full growth of red hair offset with strawberry freckles. I gather she inherited these features from her Irish father, Jack Munhall.

I remember a time when Diane and Leslie came to visit my parents at our little summer house in Bellport, Long Island. I was 14 and very shy and immature, she was 12 and about ten years more mature and experienced than me. Even at the age of 12 she had a full and voluptuous figure. Somehow we found ourselves up in my bedroom hugging and kissing each other. It did not go any further than that, but I felt forever attracted to her by that experience.

Leslie was soon out dating boys of all kinds and I gathered she matured fast, like many young girls brought up in poor and crime-ridden neighborhoods. I did not see her much but thereafter she was going steady with a string of different boys. One time I was in the city and went to visit her and her girlfriend. She brought her latest boyfriend and soon they went off to a nearby bedroom. That left me with the girlfriend who soon kind of enveloped me. I was still very young and very inexperienced and I found myself amazed by how forward my cousin’s girlfriend was.

I did not hear much or see much of either Leslie or her girlfriend. I did hear from my aunt Diane that Leslie was having stomach problems and boyfriend problems. I did not hear any real details, but I gather that her relationship problems somehow affected her digestive tract and her stomach had literally tied itself up in knots.

By this time I was 18 and headed for college.

Over the next 6 years, I did not hear much from Leslie. Every once and while I would meet her at her mother’s. By this time, Diane had divorced Jack Munhall and had struck up a relationship with a guy named Bill Riley, another Irishman. Bill was a cameraman and a kind one man production studio. Diane started working with him, helping him with getting clients, completing scripts, making films, which mostly were documentaries and commercials. Bill and Diane drank a lot and it was wise thing to visit them in the early afternoon, not in the later part of the day.

Occasionally, Leslie would stop in and about all I would see of her was a quick hello and quick goodbye. She was still beautiful and she did not look like she suffered from either boyfriend or health problems. By this time, she was a young married lady. I don’t think she shared her mother’s enthusiasm for alcohol, but she always seemed nervous and unsure of herself and very beautiful in spite of it. She may have been taking some kinds of drugs by this time, amphetamines or barbiturates. I do not really know, but something seemed wrong. She was nervous, high-strung and always seemed to be biting her lip.

Over the next years, I graduated from college, tried a stint at being a writer on a local paper in the Hamptons and then went into my father’s business in St. James, Long Island. Occasionally, I would go over to Diane and Bill’s. It was kind of exciting for me because they led a kind of Bohemian life, producing documentaries or commercials for anyone they could convince to accept their services. Working at odd hours and drinking at odd hours. In spite of their somewhat bohemian habits, both Bill and Diane were very likable people.

They had a “production office” on the West Side, somewhere in the 50s, near what used to be called “Hell’s Kitchen”. I used to go over there and visit in the afternoons, if I happened to have some earlier meetings that day in the city. At the time, I was going into the city pretty regularly from Setauket, Long Island to meet a layout artist to complete various ads we were doing. So I would come into the city, meet with the layout artist, have lunch and then, if there was time, I would stop by Bill and Diane’s. Inevitably, if it was afternoon, they would start their drinking. It was exciting for me and probably not the best influence, but it was what it was.

This was also my way of keeping in touch with what was going on with Leslie. Mostly, I never saw Leslie. She was off in another part of the city, living her married life, with her new husband. Occasionally, she would show up and drop off stuff or pick up stuff. She did some errands for the production studio, which mostly consisted of running film back and forth to various places. Either editing studios or TV stations.

By this time I had entered the real working world and had become more or less entwined in my father’s business. I had not intended to work for my father, but like many others before me, I found myself drawn in. Then a strange thing happened. I started to like my father’s business and soon I was working hook, line and sinker.

I kept in touch with Bill and Diane and I came to learn after a couple of years that Leslie’s marriage had not worked out and they had separated. Then I heard she remarried. I was not very impressed with the man she chose to remarry. When I went to meet them in their new apartment, I could see that he was a good provider. The apartment was clean and full of modern conveniences…new kitchen, new furniture, a new stereo, a huge new TV. From a distance it looked like Leslie had finally found a man to make her happy and provide her with a stable living condition.

Then I met him. He was a little above average height, thin, handsome in a dark Italian kind of way, and very hyper. He explained to me he needed the big TV to watch football games up close and be sure not to miss any detail. Monday night Football, Saturday football games were big events for him and he had the big TV to watch it all. While I could sense that he was a good provider, that he had a good job, that he was a stable kind of guy, somehow I could not see it working out with him and Leslie. He just seemed too intense and demanding for Leslie. He also seemed to have a sharp temper that would show up occasionally in his conversations with his new wife. I had the feeling that sooner or later Leslie would get fed up or lose interest in her husband.

It was only a few years later that I heard Leslie had separated from her husband and she had moved down to Miami. Diane said she was worried about her daughter and that if I ever got the chance, I should drop in on her and see how she was doing. It happened that I was exhibiting at the Miami Boat Show that year and so I called Leslie up and told her I would like to take her out to dinner.

I took some time off from the show and cruised over to her house. It turned to be a small bungalow in North Miami Beach. You almost had to drive an hour from where the Boat Show was being held, but I got there on a warm Miami evening. We went out to dinner and everything was going fine. We were chatting each other up, talking about childhood memories, about family, about how our lives were going. Leslie seemed to have a lot of hopes and dreams for the future.

Then somewhere after dinner, just as I was bringing her back to her bungalow, she kind of snapped and literally became a different person. The strange thing about this is that it happened mid sentence. One second were chatting and laughing, the next she was accusing me of trying to take her back to New York to her mother. Since I had no intention of taking her back to New York, Leslie’s accusation came as a complete surprise. Not only did she change her entire mood and frame of mind during our conversation, she seemed to change her whole personality.

I do not know if you have even met a truly schizophrenic person, but Leslie turned out to be truly schizophrenic. I found myself literally unable to continue the conversation. It had gone from fond reminiscences and laughing cheerful talk to deeply troubled and troubling accusations. Somehow, within the space of a few seconds, Leslie had become convinced that I was plotting to take her back to New York and deliver her to her mother.

I tried to talk my way out of this and convince her that I had no such intention. I tried to explain that I was just out to buy her dinner and chat up old times. But Leslie simply did not buy it. In her mind I had become this alien trying to take her back to her mother. There was no way to convince her otherwise. I did the only thing I could, I said I was going to head back to my hotel in downtown Miami and I would call her the next morning. I kept insisting that I had no intentions to take her back to New York, but Leslie was convinced that one way or another I was against her.

I headed back to my hotel kind of dazed and confused by my cousins strange accusations. The next day I did call her up and almost immediately it became apparent that she was the old Leslie, the cousin I remembered, laughing, joking, saying she had a great time. She said absolutely nothing about her accusations and about my efforts to persuade her that I was not trying to take her back to New York. All of that had passed away, forgotten and forgiven, as if it had never taken place.

I did not see Leslie until many years later. By this time, she was back in New York. Once again, I took her out to dinner. Leslie had seemed to have stabilized, but her health seemed to be terrible and I did not know just what was the problem was. I could see that she was thin and unhealthy looking. Her once rosy, freckled cheeks now looked sallow. Her once beautiful figure was now thin in some places and overweight in other places. So her arms were now puffy and heavy, her stomach paunchy. She was still thin, but overweight in places, as if her body was getting out of shape in some places, but remaining thin in other places.

The place she was living was kind of horrible in itself. It was a kind of run on kitchen living room bedroom, really a one room studio that was not wide enough that started out as a kitchenette and then became a living space with a bed at the end of it. It was the kind of Manhattan apartment that people only rented if they could not afford anything else. It was somewhere in the 30s on the East Side in an a neighborhood where all the apartments were next to each other and you could hear different neighbors, making conversation, sometimes fighting and arguing, sometimes watching TV, sometimes playing loud music. There was no real privacy, no sense of space. I was glad to have the opportunity to take her to dinner and get her out of there.

Leslie did not live many years longer. I heard from her mother that she had passed away and that there had been a funeral. My wife and I were living out on Long Island and I had been on a business trip to the West Coast when I heard that she had died. She must have been in her middle 30s. I never did learn what she died of. All I heard was that she had stomach problems and they got worse. She went into the hospital with some stomach pains. There were complications and within a week she died. And so her life ended just when she should have been enjoying married life with kids. Considering that her mother Diane came from great wealth and Leslie died in great poverty, her death is all the more tragic.

My uncle John was another person in our family who did not get to live a very long life. I do not remember that much about him. I remember a picture of him standing in front of the Southampton Bathing Corporation just before going into the beach club for a swim and lunch. He was a relatively short man for his family, really a man of average. He had a slight paunch which he stuck out, almost as if he was proud of his stomach.

All three of his brothers were considerably taller. My father was the tallest at 6′ 3 & 3/4″, a tall, lanky and impressive man. Hamilton Hoge was the second tallest at 6′ 2″, a man with a healthy ruddy face and a good athletic physic. Francis Hoge was almost a tall, even more handsome and even more well-built. Even John’s sister, Barbara Hoge, was as tall.

All of that said, John was a handsome man and, according to my father, “all the girls loved John.” Apparently, he liked to go out to nightclubs, was very popular and was well liked by both male and female friends.

I do not remember him that well, but I remember him driving me from New York City to Southampton a couple of times. He had what I believe was a Dodge Convertible. I remember it was a big deal when he put down the top. I loved the open air feeling of that car, but putting down the top was a kind of elaborate procedure that did not always go well. Sometimes he had to fuss with the handles to release the top. Sometimes the handles did not want to close when the top was put up.

He was my favorite uncle, but he died at a relatively young age. He was always full of jokes, always telling stories, always talking as if he really enjoyed his life. I could see why he was so popular with the ladies. Apparently, he had some kind of heart disease. Today, of course, very few people die of heart disease, at least immediately. The doctors have figured out ways to keep people going for quite some time with the help of heart medications, stints, pig valves and various operations. But this was before those medical innovations.

I remember a family gathering when the whole family sat around my grandmother’s living room at 1165 Fifth Avenue and discussed his health. John had just learned that he had a serious heart condition from his doctor and that he would have to amend his lifestyle. I am not sure he had a bad life style. I do not think he drank a lot, even if he liked to go out to nightclubs. I do think he liked to dance and stay up late. He did not smoke, something his brother Hamilton did with great enthusiasm.

“You are going to have to make a change,” I remember my father saying. By this time in life my father was a very serious young businessman. My father was excellent at following advice he gave to others. He rarely drank, he did not smoke, and he ate simple healthy food. In the end, he lived just about as long as his brother Hamilton who ate lots of red meat, drank lots of scotch and smoked lots of cigarettes.

If John had a vice, it was eating red meat. Apparently, my grandmother raised all her kids on red meat. “They needed red meat,” she told me, “we never ate much red meat in Louisiana, but when I moved up North and had my sons, I fed them all on red meat.”

“Don’t worry about me,” I remember John saying to his brothers, “I am going to outlive you all.”

Whatever the reason, John proved to be wrong. He died one or two years later. I remembered him as this wonderful cheerful man, who was always joking and who was normally accompanied by a beautiful lady of the time. I noticed that the faces of the ladies changed. What did not seem to change was that all the ladies who accompanied him were beautiful and all seemed in love with John. It would seem that my father was right, “the ladies did love John.”

Mom liked hats

Mom liked hats!

The last short-timer I would like to discuss was my mother. Her maiden name was Anne Barbara Shewan and she, like her sister, grew up in great wealth. I have written about some of the antics of my grandfather on my mother’s side. He had, as I have mentioned in other places, the largest repair shipyard in the United States and during World War I, his shipyard, Shewan Shipyards, prepared most of the navy’s ships for entering that war.

Shewan Shipyards gave my grandfather great wealth. The business was established by his father, a Scotsman, James Shewan. James had come to this country in 1869, as a ship’s carpenter and he built the business up from literally nothing to be the largest shipyard in the United States, the only one capable of lifting an entire battleship out of the water and repairing it from the bottom up. According to my father, James Shewan was the dynamic founder. My grandfather, Edwin Shewan and his brother, James Shewan, were more the dynamic squanderers of this great business.

According to a book I have on Scotsmen in America, James Shewan had 40 acres of prime waterfront on 25th, 26th and 27th Streets in Brooklyn, just as you were coming into New York Harbor. James Shewan and his two sons had over 2,000 men working in their repair shipyard, so it was really quite an operation.

All of this was before my time and I do not remember my grandfather, although I am told I liked to crawl under his desk. I still have the desk, one of the last remnants of my grandfather’s great fortune.

Of course, I do remember my mother and to my mind, she was the most beautiful woman in the world. She liked to wear very stylish hats and dress in beautiful clothes. She was a great horse lady and a great swimmer. She tried to interest me in horse riding, but after what seemed like a really long fall from a really tall horse, I decided horse riding was not for me. In later life, I came to regret that decision and to wish I had learned to ride horses, but by that time, it was too late.

I do remember my mother taking me to what was then known as the Squadron A, which was then on 94th and Madison. It looked like a giant red brick castle that had been plopped down on 94th and Madison Avenue. You could ride a horse in the Squadron A itself or you could walk outside with your horse across Madison Avenue, over to Fifth Avenue and into Central Park. As mentioned I never truly got the hang of horse riding, but I do remember walking horses in Central Park with my mother as a young boy, feeling very uncomfortable way up high on this impossibly big horse, bouncing up and down, as we walked the horses down the pathways that were there for horse riding in the Park.

I think the tragedy of my mother is that she came from great wealth and was unimpressed by it and yet she married a man, my father, who aspired to great wealth and who worked very hard to get what absolutely bored my mother. It was not that my mother disliked wealth. She obviously liked some of the accoutrements of wealth. She loved jewelry (Cartier was her favorite store), she loved big glamorous high fashion hats, she loved beautiful, well-tailored dresses, but having been born with all of that she never understood my father’s great desire to earn money and be a financial success. Nor did she ever understand the need for money and necessity of earning an income. It had always been there and it was a surprise to my mother when money was not always available.

My father, who was an optimistic and intelligent and hard-working man, came through the  Depression and took it on himself to try bring wealth and security back to my grandmother’s family. In truth, they had never enjoyed great wealth, but they came from an upper class, wealthy background and were brought up to believe that people from good families should have and enjoy reasonable wealth.

I say reasonable wealth because my father’s side of the family were not used to excessive wealth. My mother and my grandfather were used to great wealth and that was quite simply their upbringing. So my grandfather had a house on Fifth Avenue about two blocks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition, he had a house in Palm Beach, a house in Arizona, a house in Greenwich and, last, but not least, a house in Paris. He had three large yachts, the smallest one coming in at 72 feet, and the largest one coming in at 98′ feet. And of course he had crews to captain his boats.

By today’s standards of billionaires and of hedge fund managers earning 50 million dollars in a year as a bonus and of giant yachts and absurdly expensive, absurdly large houses, this may all seem pretty small potatoes, but for his time, it was pretty high living and that was the world my mother was born into. In the winter my grandfather would cruise with his family down to Florida or to the Bahamas, in the summer they would cruise over to France, to Deauville or to the Riviera or just park the boat in a nearby port and head for Paris. It must have been an interesting experience and an interesting life. My mother Barbara and my aunt Diane grew up with a French Mademoiselle whose job was to keep the two exuberant daughters from getting in trouble and to teach them French. I am not sure Mademoiselle succeeded at keeping them out of trouble, but she did teach my mother and aunt some really good French.

The main result of this upbringing is that my mother and father would take me to the Carlyle for turtle soup and the Stork Club for Coca Cola while they had more adult beverages. Now, as mentioned, my father was no longer a party guy. So, if he had a drink, he would sip it forever. Apparently, before the depression, he was the life of the party, full of fun and jokes, but when the depression came, as my uncle Francis phrased it, “he put the hair shirt on” and became very serious and intent on making a great fortune for his new wife and for his extended family.

My father never succeeded in making a great fortune, but he worked very hard and he often had periods of great success, sometimes followed by periods of great failure. Overall, my father was revered by many men in his field as a genius before his time. Basically, my father was an advertising guy and he thought advertising was the great American gift to the world. He saw it as the great equalizer. My father thought that a man with an understanding of marketing could make his way in world and grow great businesses from just his ideas and his efforts. Of course, my father was right in that assumption, but he was never able to transpose his own marketing genius into his own great wealth. That said, he often had over a hundred people working for him and he generated an incredible amount of sales for an incredible variety of different merchandise.

Thinking back on it, if my father had succeeded in his efforts, I suspect it would not have been good for me or my mother. Every truly wealthy person I ever knew, was screwed up in some way, especially those who did not actually earn the great wealth. I know this was a problem for my mother and I know this was problem for some of the very wealthy youngsters I grew up in Southampton. Americans, it seems to me, do not handle great wealth very well. Europeans, those who I have who I met and who came from great wealth, seemed better prepared for the temptations and the challenges and the responsibilities of great wealth.

Of course, there are some families that seem to deal with it better than others. I have read a book on the young Teddy Roosevelt and it would seem that his family had a better sense of wealth and of the responsibility of it.

In the case of my mother and my aunt, I think you could say they were kind of destroyed by great wealth. My mother in particular had a hard time adjusting to the fact that she was no longer living grand houses around world, no longer eating artichokes, rich exotic French foods, no longer sipping Champagne, no longer munching on caviar, no longer sailing on grand yachts.

Again, I think part of the problem was that my father aspired to be something that he could not achieve, something that my mother grew up with and just expected to have. Whatever, I grew up in a relatively small apartment at 520 East 92nd Street. It was around the corner from Doctor’s Hospital (now closed) where I was born and just a block away from Gracie Mansion. At the time, it was quite a nice place. There were tennis courts stationed in the center of about 4 small apartment buildings, one of which we were in. Not many years after moving in, the tennis courts were replaced by two more apartment buildings in order to maximize the original real estate investment.

Our life in the city was very nice, my mother still had many of her wealthy friends, but it was by no means, the glamorous and wealthy life she had grown up in. We did kind of move up in the world when moved into a 9 room apartment at 1215 Fifth Avenue, during a high period of my father’s advertising business. There we had more stylish meals and went out to the Stork Club more often. Still, it was well short of the big time wealth my mother grown up in.

Now my mother suffered from several problems. Like her sister she liked alcohol a great deal. This was kind of natural since grandfather had been a one or two bottle a day scotch drinker. My mother also liked, like many people of the period, smoking. She liked mentholated cigarettes, generally Cool Cigarettes or Belair. She often used an elegant cigarette holder which she supposed would protect her from the tobacco.

About ten years into her marriage and eight into my childhood, my mother decided that marriage to my father was not working out. As an eight year old only child this was very hard for me to understand since I loved both my parents and yet, for some reason, they just did not seem to be able to stay together. I am pretty sure my father did not want the divorce, but he seemed powerless to prevent it and so it went forward.

My mother ended up living with me in our small Bellport summer house where she literally drank and smoked herself to death. It did not happen exactly that way and the process ended up taking almost ten years. It seems that when things take a turn for the worse, often they stay worse and that it is kind of what happened to mother.

My father could see, of course, what was happening to my mother and he stepped in and got me sent off to boarding school. There are a lot bad things you could say about going to boarding school and a lot of good things. For one thing, in a boarding school you are in a true way completely on your own. I, of course, missed my parents, but away at boarding school I found new ways to deal with life. I was not good at studies, but I proved to be pretty proficient at sports and games. In particular, I played hours upon hours of ping pong and pool and finger hockey. Finger hockey was a game where you twirled tiny hockey figures on a small, mechanical hockey field (it was about 18″ x 36″) and the tiny hockey figures shot marbles into goals. I turned out to be truly excellent a finger hockey player and I would play it for hours on end.

While I did not think of it at the time, I suppose many of my schoolmates came from similar families where the parents were going through divorce or other problems, so without knowing it, I suppose I shared unknown bonds with my schoolmates. While I was always happy to come home from boarding school, I can say I found an alternative life and was able to find things that I excelled at, even if they were not the most important things to excel at. In short, I survived quite well.

The same was not true of mother, who kind of fell apart living in the country. She took to drinking a bottle of scotch every one or two days, to smoking two or three packs of cigarettes a day. People can do a lot of damage to their bodies for a long time, but sooner or later it takes a toll. I am pretty sure my mother was not made of the strongest stuff to begin with. It had been years since she had been an Olympic class swimmer and active horse lady and while having been that no doubt helped her survive for a while, soon the drinking and the smoking did its damage.

Now often people do not always die of what is killing them and that was true and not true of my mother. What happened is a couple of years later, while I was boarding school, she got into a car accident, broke her hip and some ribs and went into the hospital. There it was discovered that she could no longer walk and she also had cancer. In essence, she never left the hospital environment, although she was moved to another hospital as her cancer advanced.

It took about eight years for my mother to die and I found it unbearably sad and difficult to visit her. I would come with my father and find her kind wired up with tubes. She could still smile occasionally and in the first few years she could talk. Later on she was in an out of consciousness and one did not really know what to say or what to do. About all you could do was come in, usually with my father, and sit at her bedside and try to talk to her even though about all she could do was nod and occasionally smile.

My mother died when I was 20 and I have to say that I was truly relieved when it happened. She was 46 ears old, which is an awful young age for someone die when you had been a truly beautiful woman. I felt very sad and her death hung over me for several years, but after that no death had the same kind of impact, no death created the same kind of sadness and grief. You could say I was all griefed out.

So that is the story of my mother, one of the short-timers in my family. I am happy to say that aunt Diane proved to be considerably more durable than my mother. She had many of the same problems, being both a drinker and a smoker. Her smoking resulting in her having her throat removed and speaking with a vibrating microphone pressed against her open throat. Even after her throat removal, she still craved tobacco and in the early days after her operation you would see her actually put a smoking cigarette through the hole in her throat. Such was the strength of her addiction.

Diane proved to be made of sterner stuff than her sister. She never quite managed to give up alcohol, but in her later years she switched from Vodka to white wine and that she drank quite sparingly. Bill Riley, her partner, eventually died from his continued consumption of alcohol, but as he got older, he too slowed down and did not drink the quantities of alcohol he did when he was first in the film business. Diane continued to live in the city by herself after her partner died, but she often came and visited us.

By that time, Diane had outlived her partner by a good ten years and had lived with her hole where her throat for more than ten years. Eventually, she gave up trying to poison herself with smoke and realized there was no pleasure in it. Thereafter, she lived a very dignified, if slightly tipsy life for another ten years or so. She lived to be 68, which I think was kind of remarkable for someone who lived the way she did.

 

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