A View from Hudson

Last weekend, I traveled to the Hudson River Valley to begin production on a short film documentary. The view of the Hudson River from the train never fails to thrill and inspire me. This waterway and region holds such a mythic space in American arts and letters. In a small way, this film project initiated me into this rich heritage.

Riding Amtrak alongside the Hudson River and looking toward the Catskill Mountains. (Photograph by author)

This work trip allowed me spend a day exploring Hudson, New York. Like many towns and cities throughout New York State, Hudson has struggled to reshape itself in a post-industrial America. In recent years, artists, entrepreneurs, and creatives have gravitated to Hudson and injected new energy and life into Warren Street, the city’s main commercial corridor. Antique shops, restaurants, cafes, and both quirky and practical small businesses fill most of the storefronts.

The joyful clutter of an analog life–John Doe Records, Hudson, NY. (Photograph by author)

The city’s architecture and buildings hint at the ebbs and flows of Hudson’s history.

Looking down Cherry Alley, Hudson, NY. (Photograph by author)

Hudson’s brick buildings, alleyways, and small-scale urbanism resembles those of many Upstate New York localities.

Doorway on Warren Street, Hudson, NY. (Photograph by author)

The city overlooks the Hudson River, and this stands as an obvious draw for visitors and residents. As sunset neared, couples and families gathered at the Promenade Hill Park.

Sunset on the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River. (Photograph by author)

My short stay in Hudson left me wanting to learn more about its history and current cultural scene. (I’m open to suggestions!) When the pandemic ultimately passes, I definitely plan to visit Olana, the home of landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church. My entire trip to the Hudson River Valley reminded me how much awaits to be experienced only a short train ride away.

Moonlight and Sand

After rarely venturing beyond a one-mile radius of our home since March, my wife and I decided to spend a few days in Ocean Grove, New Jersey earlier this month. Our longing for a change of scene outweighed our fear of mass transit. Since my wife was working on a big project, I left a day before her.

The industrial sublime view from the train. Notice the layered Jersey City and New York skylines and the legendarily treacherous Pulaski Skyway. (Photograph by author)

Arriving a few hours before check-in time, I decided to wander, people watch, and grab a bite to eat in nearby Asbury Park.

Asbury Park, a former seaside resort now associated with music and nightlife, borders Ocean Grove. Although the ongoing pandemic has shuttered–hopefully temporarily–the city’s performance venues, most of Asbury Park’s small businesses remained open, and its restaurants offered outdoor dining. While enjoying lunch al fresco and listening to music piped out from a restaurant, I realized how much I missed such a simple pleasure. I felt almost normal. Almost.

(Photograph by author)

On my first evening in Ocean Grove, I walked to the beach to watch the moonrise above the Atlantic Ocean. When I looked around, I noticed individuals and couples gathering to enjoy this beautiful lunar phenomenon. Quietly and unknowingly, we waited to share this moment.

The moonrise at Ocean Grove, New Jersey. (Photograph by author)

After darkness fell, only the rolling waves disturbed the silence of the Ocean Grove beach. This was not the historically raucous Asbury Park boardwalk. I enjoyed sitting on the sand and studying the moonlight skate across the water.

The nighttime Ocean Grove beach. (Photograph by author)

Later that night, I returned to the beach and lost myself in its stillness. I felt that I had stepped into a Romantic painting. I didn’t think about the next Zoom meeting, the insanity of our president, or the ever-lingering contemporary dread. I thought about nothing. I just stared at the moon, the water, and the sand.

Looking at the ocean from the dunes. (Photograph by author)

My wife arrived on the following afternoon. Every evening, we would head to the beach, join our fellow stargazers, and watch the moon slowly rise above the ocean horizon.

Although every day carries an uncertainty and a fear not encountered by most Americans in our lifetimes, solace still might be found. I discovered it in the moonlight. I hope that you find it somewhere, too.

A Paean to a City

The seemingly never-ending COVID-19 pandemic has shredded municipal budgets and tax bases. A regular cycle of news stories darkly speculate as to the health of the American city. Essential services–mass transit, public parks, schools–seem imperiled. The current presidential administration and its conservative allies delight at the situation. At best, the future of our cites seem uncertain. At worst, grim. Continue reading