Saturday, June 8, 2013

Howe~A Name Replete with Historcal Irony

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
~William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

The GPS coordinates of my current residence is 7 Howe Court, off of Howe

Figure 1 Viewed from the pool diving board, the backyard landscape with Nikki and Marek frolicking in the pool on the foreground.  The leaves of grass left of the diving board is Krystyna’s potted lemon grass.

Road.  In and of itself it might not be much to write home about.  But it’s home and it has its own story to tell in a curiously unique peculiar way.
Admiral Lord Richard Howe was the commander of the British Fleet during the American War of Independence.  His main mission was to thwart, with extreme prejudice, George Washington’s primary mission of leading the American Revolutionary Forces onto victory. The rest, they say, is history.

Before moving into this neck of the woods, I used to live in the town of Port Washington, last address on Port Washington Blvd.  Don’t blame me if I

Figure 2 Viewed from the driveway with my favorite lilac bush in the foreground.
don’t recall the house number.  I only lived there.  I did not handle much of the meager snail mail logistics.

Before Port Washington I took up residence in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.  My abode was only a decent Sunday morning jog to George Washington Bridge, the only open sky connection between the North American continent and Manhattan Island, a.k.a. New York City.  This was an exercise route I occasionally indulged in when the weather and my appetite for punishment warranted it.

The point was, I was captivated by the legend of George Washington as the father of the country, the most distinguished of her first citizens.  This came about more than by direct accounts about George Washington’s exploits themselves but rather by what I learned of his relationship with Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father I studied most, compared to the rest of them.
Like me, Alexander Hamilton took judicious advantage of the generous availability of “other people’s money” to advance his personal education.  

Rightly or wrongly, I identified the Hamilton-Washington nexus as deliciously parallel, albeit in a far more exalted way, to the Asumen-Miravite connection [c.f., pp.13 ff]. Consequently, among the plethora of personal faults, I had unabashedly and proudly considered myself as a diehard Washingtonian in ego identity.

Then came the Jihadist events of 9/11/2001 which shuttered all heretofore extant equilibrium on American political vulnerability, viewed from my very circumscribed personal prism at least.  A week earlier, I secured a three-month contract engagement with a re-insurance giant at the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC).  I successfully negotiated to delay the start date by a week, to 9/17/2001.  Having just completed a successful engagement with Mercedes Benz USA, I needed at least a week’s reprieve of “nothing but golf” to recharge my batteries.

The Jihadist Arabs took the towers down along with my prospects for gainful employment.  There was no way I could muster the nerves or the wits to venture find out whatever happened to my contract.  Compared to the magnitude of the tragedy my own personal concerns seemed so shamefully trivial and banal.  I just considered myself extremely fortunate that I was in the Christopher Morley golf course that Tuesday morning instead of the 104th floor, 1 WTC South in Manhattan.  Truth be told, I often wondered if I was robbed of the chance to be a hero in such an historic event.  I confess to have remained grateful to Divine Providence for having been spared the painful ordeal of finding out whether I would have turned out a villain, just another by-standing victim, or a hero, i.e., whether, under baptism of fire, the better angels of my nature would prevail over the baser devils of my decadence.

As the cliché goes, “he, who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.”  My personal version of the cliché would be: “he who pines on what might have been shuns in vain the wage of sin.”

I was radically and definitively taught by my farm-boy upbringing that how you come out of adversity defines the character of your soul.  So I invested flesh and soul to come out of the debacle by subsisting off my credit card liabilities while trying in vain to obtain my next engagement for a gainful, rewarding employment.  My wife, a professional bookkeeper, was also promptly laid off from her job with an industrial cleaning company whose main clients happened to be facilities at the John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia International Airports and the World Trade Center Industrial complex.

Having been schooled in physics and engineering, I have always been proud to claim mastery of systematic and methodological thinking.  In an effort to reverse my ever dwindling fortunes, I employed an imminently patentable logical flippant methodology to get out of my financial bind.  If nothing else but to savor the delicious irony and dwell on its after taste, this approach warrants delving into in much greater depth and detail.

My abode in Port Washington was accessible from the rest of the universe mainly expeditiously through Exit 36 of the Long Island Expressway (LIE), the main traffic artery which dissects the length of Long Island from the East River to the Eastern Forks.  The Northern Fork ends in Orient Point.  The Southern Fork ends in Montauk Point. 

From the East River which separates Long Island from Manhattan, to Montauk Point stretches approximately one hundred forty miles of navigable public road.  The distance to Orient Point is much shorter but the road layout is much more challenging in the best of weather conditions.  Mileage may not necessarily be a good predictor of trip duration.

Between the north and south shores, on average, the distance is between thirty to forty miles.  Hence, from this rather pronouncedly elongated geography, the Island got its Identity-label for being “Long.”

Getting off the LIE at Exit 36, you’d make a left turn at the first traffic light to head north on Searingtown Road which eventually transformed itself into Port Washington Blvd. on entering the town proper.  You should count seven traffic lights on Port Washington Blvd.  The seventh house from the seventh traffic light was the house I lived in for almost a decade.  This seven and seven part of the route made it more fun to give driving directions to occasional visitors.  It made it much easier to remember, to boot.

Pursuing flippancy untempered with an iota of common sense can easily usher in the realm of the ridiculous.  I contend this was not the case in this project.  But you should be the judge.  To paraphrase Fox News: I narrate, you decide; and do whatever you please with your verdict.  So here goes.

One rule of thumb governing economic reality in Long Island is that the closer you are to New York City, the higher is the cost of living.  It stood to reason that I needed to move further away from Manhattan to cope with my new economic normal.  Moving too far out east would intrude into the domain of the rich and famous in the high and mighty Hamptons.  Flipping the digits for LIE Exit 36 yielded Exit 63, ten exits short of the eastern end of the expressway.
So I drove up to Exit 63, turned north at the first light and counted seven traffic lights after getting off the LIE.  I was on County Route 83 (CR83) which connected the town of Patchogue to Mt. Sinai, hence the name Patchogue-Mt Sinai Road, a.k.a, North Ocean Avenue. I found myself in the middle of central Suffolk County.  Hereabouts, there simply is not any one town large enough to need or have seven traffic lights in it.

So at the seventh light on CR83 I turned left and took the first right onto Howe Road.  Why I turned left instead of right on Old Towne Road was a no brainer.  Old Towne Road intersected with CR83 at an approximately 30-degree or so angle.  Turning right was in the backwards direction of where I was heading, completely contrary to my quest for going forward.
At the first right turn off of Howe Road was Howe Court where a “for sale” sign was prominently displayed on the front yard of 7 Howe Court, the very head of the court, with the phone number of the realtor marketing the property, standing out in bold typeface.

At first blush I was not overly impressed with the property.  It was dominant as the only non-ranch structure in the court.  I however found the rooms too small by design and the windows too short and narrow, reminiscent of a pigeon’s perch.  The off ground pool in the back yard was more of an addition to the junk that needed to be cleared off the property than an augmentation to its valuation.

But both my daughter and son-in-law were excited at the prospect of putting their renovation ideas to flourish.  Apparently, they had earlier bookmarked the property in the internet into their short list of acquisition candidates.  So being at the short end of our ropes financially, my wife and I just went along for the ride and let the younger generation took unbridled latitude of their moment in the sun.

They promptly widened the main structure by a shade more than a yard.  All the windows were redesigned to sport a French Provençal ambience.  The pool structure in the backyard was completely demolished and landfilled.  And a new in-ground pool was dug in the heretofore unused and wooded part of the property.  A gas-fired charcoal barbecue stove and a child’s play shed with slides completed the backyard additions.

Inside the main structure, a fully finished basement with separate access from the backyard independent of those of the main house promises the prospect of separate living quarters with adequate privacy.

Thus it came to pass that by the time the National U.S. Golf Open was first held in Long Island (Bethpage Black) in June of 2002, we were fully relocated into this neck of the woods.  It was only until then that I realized the levels and dimensions of the irony that the Jihadist Attack of 11-Sep-2001 had imposed on my life.  It was not until much later that I mustered the fortitude to count the ways, to wit:
1.   I ended up living in Long Island because I deliberately refused to deal with the Arabs yet the acts of Arab terrorists sent me further into the heart of Long Island to better survive the disarray from 9/11.
2.   The 9/11 adversity had brought my extended family closer together under one roof.  Pre-9/11 Marek, Krystyna and I lived in Long Island while Renata, Robert, and Nikki resided in Jersey City.

3.    Pre-9/11 I used to take pride in having my abode associated with a great American patriarch’s name.  Post-9/11 my abode has become associated with the name of his arch-enemy.  I content myself in seeking solace with the Vito Corleone formula that in order to make your victories more triumphant it pays to elevate the stature of your enemies with some degree of honor and respectability.
 Ironically, enough it’s on the last count that I deem the reversal of my fortunes due to 9/11 to be consummate and irrevocable.  Although admittedly intangible, it was on this score that the ramifications were most far-reaching and imposed a longer-lasting impact on the soul.

1 comment:

  1. This is my first attempt to commit in writing an account of how the events of 11-Sep-2001 radically altered the trajectory of my career in more ways than I bargained for. Enjoy the ride if you can. Don't shoot the messenger if you don't like the message.