WHY READ HISTORY? — To re-experience EXCELLENCE

Thomas Paine from Internet [5].pn

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”  But, no, this line was not penned nor typed nor tweeted in the 21st Century.  It is one of the slogans that made the American Revolution possible.  That generated and strengthened bonds among “we few, we band of brothers”, striking tyranny from our land in the 1700’s.

thomas paine sign re Common Sense from Internet

The eloquent and heroic Thomas Paine went on to declare,  The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”  George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were known to credit the Spirit of ’76 [which barely existed in that era of barefoot soldiers, yet steadily grew], to the words of this writer. 

Strategic Retreat

The Legendary Crossing, which may never have happened without Paine’s heroic urgings

Nearby Bordentown is the only place where Paine ever owned a home.  A slight, compelling statue recreates the man without whose pamphlets we might not have a nation.

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Paine’s  courage was by no means limited to 1776 — for he would also pen the stirring phrase, “Government without a Constitution is power without a right.”

We the People from Internet orig

 

220px-Thomas_Paine_by_Laurent_Dabos-crop

 

13 Star Flag Chestnut Neck Revolutionary War Monument Winter 2017

Thirteen-Star Flag in Winter, Chestnut Neck, NJ, Battleground —

British Won This One

 

I am steeping myself in history books, of the time of TR, FDR, ER and always Churchill; alternating with our own American Revolution, because I am starved for excellence.

Right now, David Hackett Fischer’s stunning account, “Washington’s Crossing” “hath me in thrall.”  I am particularly moved, proud of our state as I am, to read, “Ordinary people in New Jersey came together to do something about their lost liberty.”  This wise author describes our ‘rag, tag and bobtail’ soldiers as “an army of optimistic fatalists.”  Writing of the Crossing of the Delaware, Colonel Henry Knox declared, “Perseverance accomplished what at first seemed impossible.” 

We are a country that first seemed impossible.  Our neighbors sacrificed everything — there is an entire chapter on the Hessian’s near-total looting of New Jersey homes and of course farms and farmlands.

George Washington penned a note to himself on the Pennsylvania side before the crossing, “VICTORY OR DEATH.”  Our challenge was that simple, that austere.

One of the miracles was that “in the end, not a man was lost to the river,” despite towering, occluding ice floes, ice in the Durham boats, a sleet-laden nor’easter that struck as the men boarded their crafts at McConkey’s Ferry.

Surely, all this did not happen to have it tweeted away in the 21st Century!

Let Tom Paine have the last word: “Some evils in the world are worse than war.  And one of them is tyranny.”

Protest every way you know how!

Where Are the Presidencies of Yesteryear?

“The nation that forgets its history is condemned to repeat it…”
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Guess which president…
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“X delighted in the presidency. The nation was infected with his enjoyment of the office. For the first time, not only was the president’s policy always on stage, but so was his personality, — the warming smile, the striking phrase… The country adored reading about [the president and his family].”
3-roosevelts

“Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end…”      (composite…)

“William James wrote, ‘I have rejoiced in X so far.'”
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“The nation was enchanted”
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The nation was “embark[ing] on a new quest for social justice.”
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“Reform was in the air.”
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[The president] “responded to widespread desires for a better civilization.”
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My Hero:
 
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tr-naturalist

TR Naturalist!

Give UP?
Theodore Roosevelt. 1902, with his favorite niece, Eleanor, just home from her idyllic schooling with Mlle. Sylvestre in London. “This was to be an American, and therefore a better, century…”            Joseph P. Lash, Eleanor and Franklin: Norton….
Edmund Morris’ TR masterpieces below.
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Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Bully Pulpit, as well.
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Where to turn if you are seriously in need of excellence, of honor…
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tr-bios

Essential Theodore Roosevelt Biographies

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And my friends wonder why I insist, I never wanted to enter the 21st Century…
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Stand by the Country, President Theodore Roosevelt

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The Inimitable Alice!

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Alice Roosevelt Longworth Quote about her Father: as President, he upstaged Eleanor and Franklin at their wedding…

THE FOUR SEASONS RESTAURANT — HAVEN OF EXCELLENCE — R.I.P.

4 Seasons Motif Restaurant Manhattan

The Four Seasons Motif outside the restaurant

Once there was a bastion of excellence, in Manhattan, called The Four Seasons.

Pool Room Four Seasons Restaurant

The Pool Room, The Four Seasons Restaurant

People think it was all about the food.  And, to a high degree, it was.  In that faraway year of 1959, when I moved to Manhattan, here was regionality and seasonality, and therefore savor and freshness and beauty such that no other cuisine could equal.  Not even Caravelle and Cote Basque.  Nowhere.

Metal Rain by Day 4 Seasons

Metal Rain Inside the Four Seasons, by day

Now, The Four Seasons is no more.  Several farewell nights took place, and many articles have appeared.  Nothing conveys the exquisite uniqueness that was our constant experience in every family meal at the hands of Four Seasons staff, from owners, through maitre d’, through waiters, and those invisible magnificent chefs.  All hands created that museum masquerading as restaurant, appropriately the jewel in the crown of the Seagram Building.

Palm Room Four Seasons Restaurant Manhattan

Palms and Tranquility, The Four Seasons Restaurant

The farewell articles go on and on about power lunches and billionaires and of course the movers and shakers of Manhattan.  The focus on guests splashing in what, –to us–, had always been, that sacred reflecting pool.  Seeing that pool room in vivid memory, I realize that its astounding simplicity and tranquility generated the air of haven in the middle of Manhattan’s notorious bustle.  Entering, it was as though a shawl of silence lightly descended upon our shoulders.

4 Seasons Modern Bench Manhattan Restaurant

Four Seasons Art

It cannot be true that all the superb art was reflected in that barely rippling water — yet that is how its multiplied beauty appears in retrospect.  Seeking images on the internet, nothing satisfies.   I am SURE there were Picasso tapestries hanging on stairway walls.  They appear nowhere today.  As Four Seasons appears nowhere today.  Progress and mercantilism dominate this century.  So are we deprived of this sanctuary whose aura to echoes the interiors of Chartres, Ste. Chapelle, the mosic-rich glittering basilicas in Ravenna on sunny days.

Night Scene Four Seasons Restaurant, Manhattan

Night Scene, The Pool Room, Four Seasons Restaurant

A major aspect of family meals at Four Seasons was the silken warmth of everyone’s welcome.  Come with Diane and Catherine, Werner and me, on a scintillating early autumn Saturday.  Settle in at a capacious table, carefully far enough from others so that privacy is maintained.  Hear the girls gently order their beverages; as Werner, their Swiss father, discussed wines with the sommelier.  Watch the girls’ tall gleaming glasses arrive with one waiter, as towering menus are settled silently into our hands.  See Catherine, –the younger but taller, with her long blonde Swiss hair–, open that menu and knock over her Coke.  Empathize with the horror on that young girl’s face..

4 Seasons Final Menu

Four Seasons Menu

See a brigade of waiters and busboys dash to our table.  Watch as though each had been Blackstone, the Magician.  Whisk!  off with the stained cloth and whatever had been so artfully arranged upon it.  Whoosh, floated the impeccable new one, like linens for an altar.

Hear the empathy in the voice of the headwaiter as he soothed our chagrined daughter:  “That’s nothing!,” he’s exclaiming.  “At night, we have grown-ups who catch their menus on fire!”

4 Seasons Plate with specialties Manhattan

Four Seasons Sampling

Laugh with all of us, and see Catherine’s shame erased.  Understand that this gentility was the hallmark of that restaurant.  We were not movers and shakers.  We were suburbanites, –upon whom I knew, as twice-former Manhattan resident–, that town looks askance.  We even dared to bring young girls, who happened to adore rituals and would eat anything (well, except petite friture in Villefranche, Provence, because, “Daddy, they have eyes!”

4 Seasons China

Four Seasons China

Werner knew, and we would come to know, that the poliltesse that suffused The Four Seasons was in the best European traditions, –as in Claridge’s of London, the Plaza Athenee and the Ritz of Paris.  But we weren’t in Europe — we were in America.  And for those few savory scintillating Four Seasons hours, we were experiencing the best of our country.  As with those legendary hotels and their sublime restaurants, what we took place at table rivaled beauty and majesty and tradition we had spent all morning absorbing in the world’s most important museums.

Metal Rain Four Seasons Restaurant Manhattan

Metal Rain by Night, Four Seasons Restaurant

The Four Seasons was not a museum.  It was alive, and its excellence could be counted on, time after time after time, no matter the origins of our guests

WAS alive.

IS no more.

So I must mourn this loss.

America is the less for this finale.

My words are so feeble.  I need Will to give me lines such as “Take and cut [it] out in little stars, and all the world shall be in love with night!”