It’s June 26, 1860. The SS New York has just arrived in the Port of New York from Bremen and South Hampton. The ship’s master, H.G. van Santen, signs a “full and perfect list” of passengers on board, which details each passenger’s name, age, sex, occupation, country of origin, and country of intended habitation. It names the part of the ship occupied during the voyage—first class, second class, or steerage. Line 275 in the steerage section lists “Heinr Poggenburg,” age 14, male, from Eichberg, Bavaria. Continue reading

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Climbing Slide Mountain

It was a cold Saturday morning in February, 1950. Elaine and I had a sixth floor apartment in Elmhurst, Queens. Queens County is one of New York City’s five boroughs, but if you were a New Yorker the “city,” with its prominent skyscrapers, was really the island of Manhattan. We’d been married on March 25th, 1949, the date being fixed after we’d found our small rental just a block from a subway line convenient for commuting to the big city. Continue reading

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The Swing and Sway Club

We moved from East Orange, New Jersey, to New York City in the spring of 1934—the middle of my fourth grade year—and my mother, in the firm belief her oldest son was particularly genius inclined, requested that I be recognized for my achievements. Continue reading

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The Fifth Instrument

Ora Watson, the fiddle player, was 81 years old and obviously the senior member of the four-piece string band from the North Carolina Mountains. She sat on the edge of a hard, straight-back chair, facing the audience. Her left-hand fingers clasped the strings with practiced certainty while she bowed furiously with her right arm and wrist. Her legs moved in a rhythmic, staccato groove. Continue reading

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“Hey Art,” said Brad, “what do you call that stuff…you know…that stuff that…the droppings…that deer leave behind them?”

Art didn’t rush to answer. They were each standing on extension ladders, painting the second story of a building at Lamont Geological Observatory. Brad was Art’s assistant, hired about three month’s ago, and Art was just about the entire maintenance staff at Lamont. Continue reading

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The Rockleigh Woods Coop

It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon in September 1952 when Elaine and I were walking along Avenue A towards our apartment in Shanks Village, Rockland County, New York.  Once known as Camp Shanks the army acquired the land to temporarily house soldiers as they assembled convoys bound for war theaters in Europe during World War II. After the war ended, the camp was turned over to the Public Housing Authority to house married veterans who were going to colleges and universities in the New York metropolitan area and renamed it Shanks Village. Hundreds of army barracks were converted to apartments, three apartments per barracks building. I was one of those students, studying for a masters degree in history. Continue reading

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Cook Brook

One hundred thirty miles north of New York City, in the heart of the Catskill Mountain range, two adjacent peaks, Plateau Mountain and Spruce Top Mountain, point northward in solitary silence. They are joined, however, by a curved ridgeline that links the south faces of the peaks. Disregarding the preferences of local inhabitants living in the shadow of one or the other peak, an unbiased observer might think of the promontory as one large U-shaped mountain. In any event, the water run-off from rain and snow drains through eroded creek beds down the rift valley between the peeks and merges, eventually, in Cook Brook. Cook Brook, after a mile or so, empties into my grandfather’s lake. Continue reading

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