THE RIVER MUST GO

Living in North Jersey these days is an expensive proposition, especially if you commute to a job in Manhattan and you’re faced with the huge cost of traveling that last mile over or under or on the Hudson every work day. Something has to be done about it, something drastic. We’ve got to get rid of the Hudson River. It’s in the way.

My family has a history of short term toll-free river crossings.  My Grandma Honorah once spoke of walking across the solidly frozen Hudson to shop on 42nd Street around 1900, but you can’t count on that today with global warming. Imagine calling your Wall Street boss and telling him you won’t be in for awhile because the river melted.

My Uncle Willie swam from Edgewater to Riverside Park and back in 1920. That’s too dangerous now with the heavy river traffic and you can’t show up at work in a wetsuit even on dress-down Fridays.

I once almost made the crossing in a small sailboat with a boyhood pal. We got within a stone’s throw of the Battery. I know it was a stone’s throw because there were two kids on the shore throwing stones at us and they were getting close so we had to get out of range.

So how do we get rid of the Hudson River? First of all we don’t have to eliminate all 315 miles of it from the Adirondacks to the Atlantic. I suggest a dam around Yonkers and a nearby canal to divert the river eastward into Long Island Sound.. Then broaden the lower Manhattan shoreline to narrow the river at one point. They’ve been doing that for over a century.  So-called landfills of New York garbage and rubble, including new subway diggings, have added thousands of acres to Manhattan at the expense of the Hudson’s width.

A gate at that point would be opened for the low tide outflow and closed to the high tide inflow.  Eventually, toll free roads and promenades would be installed on the dry river bed.  The ferry ports can become bus terminals and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels would still be used by commuters who would miss their daily carbon monoxide doses.

Someone else will have to work out the other details.  I’m pretty busy right now with my next plan to double-deck the Garden State Parkway from Newark to Asbury Park.

 

 

A PORTABLE FEAST

The tricentennial of the birth of John Montagu will occur next year on November 13. Make your plans and reservations now to attend one or more of the memorial celebrations that are sure to be held around the world, including the unveiling of plaques at appropriate sites like McDonald’s and Subway restaurants and possibly a royal lunch at Windsor Castle.

John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich in Great Britain, lent his name, quite unintentionally, to today’s immensely popular hand-held meal.  The earl was a notorious gambler and one evening, in order to avoid interrupting a card game, he told his cook to prepare a quick, easy to handle meal that wouldn’t cause a misdeal or mess up the kitty. The cook obliged by handing him a cut of meat between two slices of bread.

Later when the cook asked for orders from the other players, they watched the happily munching Montagu and replied, “Just repeat the Sandwich order.”  So, for the first time, there were sandwiches and (poker) chips all around.

Of course the earl and his cook didn’t invent the sandwich. Our ancestors had been eating meat since the dawn of history and had created bread recipes at least 30,000 years ago.  The combination of meat and bread was inevitable and probably happened  thousands of years before that card game.  Peanut butter and jelly, paninis and wraps were later important advances.

The sandwich label was applied again when British explorer Captain James Cook discovered an archipelago in the Pacific and named it the Sandwich Islands in honor of Montagu who was then the First Lord of the Admiralty.  The islanders eventually murdered Captain Cook and soon began to refer to their homeland as “Hawaii”.

The surname “sandwich” has prevailed although there are now dozens of given first names including hoagie, submarine, gyro, Philly cheese steak, BLT,  French dip, Monte Cristo, reuben and Dagwood.

I remember oddball sandwich combos I observed in lunch rooms at school and work.  I used to kid my friend Dick about his Hershey Bar on rye and he, in turn, mocked my Bermuda onions and sardines on pumpernickel with a side order of Tums. Do you have a favorite weird sandwich?

THE DAY WE LOST DAD

It was that awful day we lost Dad….for over an hour.  It later became one of those entertaining family stories that everyone enjoys except for maybe the leading man. Dad always left the room when I began to tell this one.

He had  driven Mom and me out to watch the Holy Name Parade in Hackensack one Sunday afternoon. I was only five and was quite impressed, especially with the big Mickey Mouse balloon Dad bought me.

Parking spaces were scarce in Hackensack that day. We finally found one on a side street and had to walk back several blocks guided by the lively music of a marching band.  We didn’t get any such help returning to the car after the parade. In fact its exact location turned out to be a matter of opinion. “It’s down this street, Jim,” Mom said after we’d hiked for about 10 minutes.

“No, Nora, we have to walk a couple of blocks more,” Dad said.

“Well when you find out you’re mistaken you can come back here and meet us at the car.  We’ll be waiting,” Mom replied.

“When you get tired of your futile search around here,” Dad said, “just walk two blocks over and turn right. I’ll be waiting.”   I thought it best to stay out of the debate, so I just played with my smiling pal Mickey who was floating above me on a string.

Mom and I soon found the car, but it was locked, so we stood at the curb and we waited………and we waited. Eventually Mom began to lose patience and Mickey began to lose altitude.  Finally she flagged down a passing patrol car and reported a missing husband.  “Lady, it’s a parade day. He’s  probably having a beer with his buddies. Don’t worry, he’ll show up, ” the cop said and pulled away.

A half hour later I watched Mickey flutter to the gutter just as Mom was hailing another patrol car. This one held a surprise.  Dad was in the back seat, helping the police find his “lost family” and “stolen car”.  He was absolutely certain he’d parked two blocks further than where we’d found it, but he could never convince Mom of his theory that some smart aleck  car thief had hot-wired the DeSoto and relocated it as a joke.

A SOLEFUL TALE

One of the first things Eve must have said to Adam as they trudged wearily out of Eden was, “Ouch, my feet hurt!”  Adam’s  probably started to carry his wife, but he would soon weary and suggest wrap-around footwear using nearby heavy palm leaves.  “No,” Eve would say. “That shade of green would clash with my fig leaf outfit.  We’ll keep looking. And I think you should cut down that apple tree over there and carve out some heels. Watch out for the serpent.”

Historians tell us we humans have been wearing some kind of shoes for about 7,000 years. I think it must have been farther back than that. Sure, archaeologists are finding remnants of pottery, weapons and other hardware in ancient ruins, but discarded worn out shoes would have turned to dust long before they started to dig.  There’s an old pair of loafers in the back of my closet now that are  beginning to resemble decomposing chipmunks.

I still have my very first pair of shoes and must admit they’re in perfect condition after more than 80 years, but that’s because my mother had them bronzed in 1940.  I don’t think a Bronze Age mother in 3000 BC would have gone to that kind of expense and trouble even if bronze workers then were into the shoe-coating thing.

Many of us have an innate resentment of shoes. They’re often the first articles of clothing removed at the end of a work day and always with a sigh of relief.  If you have a keen sense of smell, you’ve probably noticed a lot of shoes are removed by theater-goers as soon as the lights are dimmed even though their liberated tootsies might swell up during the show and no longer fit back into their wingtips and wedgies.

Little boys are probably the largest anti-shoe group. On the last day of school they look forward to a couple of carefree shoeless months. I know I did, but back in those nicotine days we boys had to be wary of discarded smoldering butts that turned sidewalks and park grounds into minefields for the barefooted.  A cast-off glowing ten-cent corona once put me on Unguentine rehab for a month.