Global Province Letter: The Loving Eye: Seeing Things Passionately

December 9, 2009

Adams in New York. We forget that the first capital of the United States under the Constitution was New York City—from March 4, 1789 to August 12, 1790.  Ever since, it has been the financial and media capital of the nation—really the nerve center of the United States and much of the world, even if complex ganglia radiate out from the plethora of other world cities across the globe. New York’s anointed task today is to sustain its uniqueness in the universe. During a strike of the air controllers during the Reagan Administration, we ourselves swirled very near the Statue of Liberty in a helicopter and realized that there was no place quite like Manhattan on the globe.

In olden times, New York City was all about Lower Manhattan. There stood Richmond Hill, mansion and estate, which was the residence of our first vice president, John Adams.
Adams “loved the estate with its beautiful grounds and sweeping views of the Hudson. ‘Never did I live in so a delightful spot.’” Even today Greenwich Village is the most charming and civilized part of Manhattan, while the Upper East Side, where the well heeled hang their hats, is both sterile, repetitive, boring, and banal. The hedge fund guys and the investment bankers—the chaps who got us into our recent difficulties—all live up there.

In a charming essay about Charlton Street, part of the area that supplanted the Richmond Hill estate, Richard Blodgett, a Manhattan writer who lives in the neighborhood, observes, “The north side of Charlton today contains the longest unbroken row of Federal and early Greek Revival homes extant in New York.” Blodgett has a knack for writing about things antique, ranging from Charlton Street to collectible photographs to cast-iron tractor seats.  He reminds us in his account of Charlton Street that livable communities are all about diversity and detail and individuality. It’s the grain in the wood and the seasoning of the habitats that endows each inhabitant with a sense of place and belonging. The very texture of our subdivisions and ordinary city blocks, in contrast, engenders opaqueness where alienation flourishes.

Blodgett, as importantly, exemplifies what we are all about on the Global Province. We’re simply after quality in all its permutations. As it happens, the messengers who bring quality from the gods to humankind are people like Blodgett who see their worlds with passionate eyes in order to conjure up the quintessential. So we at the Province like to give voice to what those with consuming eyes have to say.

The Global Province.  Most of our readers only pay attention to our Letters from the Global Province.  That’s too bad, since that means they only get to read the hackneyed prose and odd thoughts cobbled together by our staffers around the country.  More compelling are the surfeit of well wrought essays on the Global Province itself authored by friends and acquaintances the world over.  More about that later.

A few housekeeping notes about using the Global Province: Go here to visit the Global Province. Go here to sign up for the Letter from the Global Province. Go here to find past Letters.  Go to the bottom of any Letter you receive in order to end your subscription.  Go to the bottom of the homepage to find a Google bar where you can search to find items on the Global Province. Go here to read about the parts of the Global Province. Now let us introduce you to a few of the insightful writers who take you to worlds you may not yet have visited.

Una Buona Festa: Christmas in RomeColin Goedecke is a New York business writer, sometime poet, and avid dancer whose Italian wife has introduced him to all the delights of Rome.  He goes ‘home,’ to her home in Italy, frequently.  Here he recounts for us what Christmas Roma can be like.

Scotch: Requiem or Instauration.  Several in our gang of thieves have been drinking Michel Couvreur’s Single Single Malts for years. Though his ingredients come from Scotland, the flavor all comes to life in Burgundy.  Somewhere along the way he granted us permission to hijack his Scotch thoughts.  A look at his digs in Burgundy convinces one that he, indeed, makes the wine of single malts.

Spicelines. Spicelines, our companion website, got its start on the Global Province.  But its editor now has her own canvas on which to paint the life and cuisine and lifestyle of countries far and near. On the Province, however, you will find all you want to know about peppercorns, pepper mills, and cinnamon. As well she had memorable visits with Susana Trilling, whose Oaxaca mole is a treasure, and Floyd Cardoz, a New York chef who has since garnered a lot of attention. These she topped with the best meal in Paris. Soon she promises to start yet another site which will focus on the good life.

Journeys South.  Stephen Page provides us with a blow by blow of his overland trip south of the border in Viva La Carrera Panamericana. A different Cuba than the one we all visited in college is recounted by both playwright Rebecca Otto and banker Alston Beinhorn.

Off the Beaten Path. We always thought all Canadians went to Florida for the winter, and a few, if we are to believe the flags seen there, make it to Nantucket during the summer.  More original is Grant Carter, a marketing consultant up Toronto way, who has motored to Cape Hatteras so many times that he seems to know it better than Carolinians.  Out in the backcountry as well, often in England, is one Cedric Lumsdon who takes a long walk with his chums every year and then repairs to a good country restaurant in order to go over every footstep.

Traveling First Class.  Howard Gross, a Boston telecommunications consultant and recommender of Japanese restaurants in many ports, has got the art of flying down to a science. For us he studied international first class, in an article that probably needs to be updated. We ourselves remember Dragon Air on the trip up to Beijing from Hong Kong where we enjoyed the first truly luxurious service we’d had in 20 years.  We wonder if Mr. Gross has ever had Baked Oysters with Horseradish –Parsnip Puree and Spinach-Lemon Cream such as chef James Overbaugh would conjure up at the Windsor Court. 

Thinking about Health. Stephanie Day, a brave fighter, now deceased, tells us well of her long battle with breast cancer.  This ordeal led her to many late nights. She would want you to know that for her money the best of the late night TV hosts, far and away, is the Scottish American Craig FergusonJames Duke, one of handful of people on earth who knows a whole lot about the medicinal uses of plants, petitions the FDA to include a botanical in every clinical test of a new drug.  He thinks the botanical may do the job better:  he is confident that it will usually be safer. A couple of his books are reviewed on the Global Province.  Jim, even with a back that gives him trouble, is off to the Amazon in Brazil for yet another trip.

Take Me Away from All That.  Maybe, however, you don’t want to think about health and death and life and the everyday concerns of man.  We provide some escapes into the world of the imagination.  Richard Francis, in his “Explosion of Museum Architecture,”  suggests which museums will most stir your heart.  There’s also a novel underway called Monongahela, with Linda Peterson’sThe Gasworks Gang” and Charles Wheat’s
“Escape from San Quentin,” kicking it off.  If you get tired of words and are up for pictures, look at Scenes from the Global Province where a gaggle of artists, designers, photographers, and cartoonists have posted their witty fare.

Close Up and Personal.  The challenge for every nation in this century is hooking up—intimately—with every other nation in the world.  But phones, and computers, and media, and huge organizations cannot get that job done.  Connections occur because some people push beyond borders, explode boundaries, go to remote places, frequent the locals, attempt conversations that go beyond conversation, focus manically on what’s before them, and pass along their knowledge in a very personal form. They look at things tenaciously, as do our authors above.

The great modern art critic, teacher, and museum director George Heard Hamilton was always very intent on understanding what went into a great painting.  He was sure, above all, that a great painting required a great, bright, cultivated, engaged audience.  If we are to turn our world into a beautiful mosaic, rather than a mongrel collection of disparate elements, we require a great audience that can tie everything together.  Forging one world will take a whole lot of border jumpers. Nothing like a great audience.

P.S. The famous or infamous (if you like) Aaron Burr, lived in the Richmond Hill neighborhood, on what is now Varick. A once lovely restaurant, One If By Land, Two If By Sea, is reputed to have been his carriage house.

P.P.S.  Much of the Global Province commentary concerns far-flung places in distant longitudes and latitudes of the globe.  Our readership comes from afar as well, most living outside the United States. Quite often the preponderance of our active readers come from India, equipped as it is with a huge population that is conversant with English and other languages. We hear back from schoolboys in Malaysia, journalists in Australia, computer programmers in Russia, Englishmen in all walks of life, investors in Hong Kong and Spain. 

P.P.P.S. These United States are still learning to deal with the world. Even after World War II, only 10% of our commerce involved foreign merchants. Despite our world wars, we could be safely isolationist most of the time, our newspapers ignoring what was going on in Timbuktu. No longer. Our economy is interwoven with that of the world.  And world affairs often crowd out our domestic agenda. Like it or not, we’re now 24/7 and 360 degrees. We gain little from talking to ourselves. But like the people of Western Europe before a chap named Galileo came along, we often are prone to believe we are the center of the universe. We ain’t.


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