Tag Archives: Historic Hudson Valley

Irving the Ivy Leaguer. Sort Of.

My pal Rob Schweitzer over at Historic Hudson Valley snuck this up on the HVBlog a while back, and I only just caught it:  a photo of Washington Irving’s 1832 honorary law degree from Harvard University. Very nice.  And not a bad accomplishment for someone who might fairly be considered a candidate for New York’s Worst Attorney — after all, Irving allegedly abandoned the only client he ever had!

Nice find, Rob.

Legends of the Fall

Fall seems to be officially here. Temperatures have settled squarely into the low- to mid-70s, and the air is starting to get that delicious crisp edge.  Some evenings you can smell fireplace smoke, cutting its way through the chill to find your nose.  The weather is that odd combination of brisk and balmy, so you can wear shorts as you work in the yard, but still need a sweatshirt, preferably with the sleeves pushed up to your elbows. It’s my favorite time of year.

Fall also means Halloween is just around the corner, as hard as that is to believe.  My wife is an absolute Halloween Junkie.  While she’s not a fan of the horrifying, she does delight in the goofy fake-scary decorations, from signs that say “EEK!” to life-size plastic skeletons we do all sorts of terrible things to.  And at the end of the season, we’re always very careful to pack the skeletons up again with their upper bodies in one box and their legs in another.  That way, if they come to life and want to go on a killing spree, we’ve at least made them easier to outrun.  Because you can never be too sure.

We’ll also be heading up to Sleepy Hollow in mid-October, which is getting to be a habit with us. We’ll be taking part in the nighttime Legend Celebration  over at Philipsburg Manor (for the fainter of heart, there’s also a daylight version of events over at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside) and the spectacular Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor

If you’ve never been to either event, try like heck to make it.  I’ll try to do a better job taking pictures this year so I can put up a few to give you an idea of just how neat these events can be. Plus, I’m working with Historic Hudson Valley to see if we can come up with something fun and Washington Irvingish to do when I’m there.  I’ll keep you posted.

Finally, I’m working hard on some sample chapters for my latest project, to see if I can make anything come of it.  I’m pleased with what I have so far — and Barb gave me some spectacularly good edits on the first chapter — but we’ll see what happens.  If this comes together, I really will explain everything that’s been going on for the last 18 months.  Hopefully, all will become clear at that time.

The Great Pumpkin

Tomorrow night — and on every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from now through Halloween — Historic Hudson Valley (HHV) is presenting the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. If you’re in New York any time over the next four weekends — or are planning to be — then trust me, this needs to be on your agenda. Add it now. It’s one of the coolest things you’ll do this year.

The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze — which actually started last weekend — is a spooky walk-through attraction at one of HHV’s neatest properties, Van Cortlandt Manor, an old stone Dutch manor house on the banks of the Croton River. The Blaze features more than 4,000 hand-carved, illuminated Jack O’Lanterns, gaping, grinning, leering, and laughing at guests as they wander through the woods on the Van Cortlandt property, with the spookily-lighted house looming up in the darkness. Round one bend, and you’ll see dozens of flickering fish; round another, it’s skeletons and witches. Round another, you’ll see dinosaurs battling. And in one of the neatest — and simplest — effects, you’ll see a lighted path of pumpkins disappearing off into the woods toward infinity as hidden speakers play the sound of an approaching horse. Creepy.

If that weren’t enough, HHV is also presenting its Legend Weekend at Philipsburg Manor, on October 18, 19, 25 and 26. Stroll the grounds of this colonial-era farm at your own risk — witches, pirates, and ghosts await you. And if you’re lucky, you just might see the Headless Horseman — straight out of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” — come tearing by. Brrrr.

More information on the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze and Legend Weekend can be found here. Tickets are required for each — but become a member of HHV, and you’ll not only be entitled to free tickets, but you’ll be helping preserve a unique part of America’s heritage. I’ve been a member for nearly ten years, and I’m proud to support them.

Atomic Batteries to Power…Turbines to Speed…

. . . and over we go to the Hudson Valley Blog, where I’m very pleased to have them reprinting my “Antient and Renowned City of Gotham” piece from early last week.

Even if you read it here, swing by HHV and have a look by clicking here.

While you’re there, poke around on their website and learn about some of the terrific historic properties they own and manage. You’ll be so impressed you’ll want to suppport their organization right then and there.

Hey You! Don’t Watch Dat! Watch Dis!

I’m guest blogging over at Historic Hudson Valley’s HVBlog today, celebrating the 189th anniversary of the birth of the American bestseller . . . Washington Irving’s The Sketch Book.

You can read all about it right here. I’ll see you over there.

Coming Attractions

Be sure to tune in this weekend to League of Reluctant Adults, where Agent J (SuperAgent Jonathan Lyons) will be making a guest appearance. Jonathan will answer your questions, dish the dirt, and try really hard not to get annoyed when you ask him how the Spurs managed to choke it so badly in the NBA playoffs this year.

More fun begins on Monday over at Book Roast, where a virtual salmagundi stew of books of varying genres will be discussed, fawned over, and mocked in a sorta kinda MST3K-style. In the non-fiction category, Dennis Cass’ Head Case and Doreen Onion’s fun Queen of the Road are on the spits for the first week. Race ya over there.

Finally, on Monday, I’ll be guest-blogging over at Historic Hudson Valley’s always-interesting HVBlog, where I’m helping celebrate an anniversary, of sorts. See you then.

Have a good weekend. Happy Summer!

Apple Blossom Time

One of my very favorite things to do in the whole wide world is get the mail. Not e-mail, mind you, but honest-to-gosh postal mail. Very analog of me, I know, but I love opening up the box we have nailed to the old maple tree in our yard and seeing it crammed full of stiff white envelopes, magazines, and, on a good day, that E-Ticket of mail, The Package. (Come on, is there anyone here who doesn’t love seeing that smiling amazon.com box?)

The other day, however, it wasn’t a package that made my day, it was one of the envelopes. This one was a yellow envelope, and the return address on it was one of my favorite places in the world, Historic Hudson Valley, of White Plains, New York. The fine folks at HHV, as they call themselves, were incredibly nice and helpful as I was working on Washington Irving, so any correspondence from them is always a treat. I opened it, and inside was a small, sealed envelope, with a cover note from Kate Johnson, curator of HHV. “This letter came in for you,” Kate’s note said in her perfect, spidery script, “so I am sending it on.”

The enclosed envelope — with a Rancho Cordova, California return address — had been sent to HHV, but addressed to my attention. I turned it over; “Thank you” had been written across the back tab of the envelope. Gently, I nudged it open, and slid out the card inside, a crisp white notecard with a painting of apple blossoms on the front. “My very dear Sir,” the note began, in a spiky cursive:

Thank you for the beautiful reading days you have given us with ‘Washington Irving.’ A work of art coming in with the arrival of Spring.

Sincerely yours,

Carlotta Monteverde (*)

All I can say is: wow. That small note made my day, week, month, maybe even year.

The fact that someone read and enjoyed my book — someone I don’t know — and then took the additional time to sit down, write a note, and mail it, is all at once so sweet, flattering, humbling, and inspiring. I’ve been well reviewed in the Washington Post, New York Times, and Associated Press, but I must tell you, no review means more than the kind words of a reader. To know it’s been in the hands of someone 3,000 miles away who read it and enjoyed it — and enjoyed it enough to write — really makes it all worthwhile.

In all my days as a reader, I don’t think I’ve ever once dropped an author a personal note to tell them how much I appreciated their work — I think my assumption was always “Ahhhh, why bother? They’ll never get it.” Because of Carlotta, I’m going to change that assumption. I’m going to start letting writers know when their work has touched, inspired, or just flat out entertained me. Because it sure meant a lot when someone took the time to do it for me.

I wrote Carlotta a card in return, thanking her for beautiful note — and I meant every word of it. Those apple blossoms on her card may have been a portend of the weather that’s to come, but it was the sentiment inside, in Carlotta’s sprawling handwriting, that truly brought Spring here early.

(*) Name changed to protect and respect the sender’s privacy.