Dave Jensen and I attended the Steve Winwood concert at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester. Winwood put oin a great show, performing hits from every phase of his long career, opening with “I’m A Man” from his Spencer Davis band period. He went on to do “Can’t Find My Way Home” (Blind Faith), “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” (Traffic) and “Higher Love” from his solo period. The band was excellent, very tight, with a terrific drummer and percussionist. For an encore, they performed “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” during which Winwood played a blistering guitar solo, and then the venerable sixties chestnut “Gimme Gimme Some Lovin”’, in which Winwood thrilled everyone with his return to Hammond B3 organ. What fun.
I was very pleased to be invited by Paul Martin (below) and The Lincoln Depot Museum to help open the 2015 season with event held in partnership with the Lincoln Society in Peekskill to mark the 150th anniversary of the day President Lincoln’s funeral train paused in Peekskill enroute to internment at Springfield, Illinois.We had an excellent crowd in an impressive facility. I debuted my talk “Abraham Lincoln, Outlaw Hero.” I had a great time, and I’m very grateful to have been invited.
Thanks to a choice George Washington once made to locate his headquarters there, Morristown, New Jersey, is far more widely associated with the American Revolution than the Civil War. Still, about sixty members of the North Jersey Civil War Round Table showed up the at Frelinghuysen Arboretum (a magnificent estate that appears to have been about two warm weeks short of spectacular) to hear my talk about Will Cushing. They were a great group, friendly and knowledgable, and an enjoyable time was had by all. Thanks to Rich Rosenthal for inviting me, and for an excellent dinner at the very classy Rod’s Steakhouse.
Last night the Push the Cush tour visited the West Point chapter of the Company of Military Historians, at the West Point Museum. Thanks for the hospitality–I very much enjoyed meeting everyone, and telling Will Cushing‘s story. Thanks particularly to Paul Martin, for recommending me. At the far right of this picture, one can see a display honoring Alonzo Cushing, featuring the Medal of Honor he earned at Gettysburg that was presented to him last November.
I remember years ago standing at the counter at Borders in White Plains, and seeing a flyer for an event called Spoken Interludes, where writers would come and read from the latest work. I always thought that being asked to participate would hit the heights. Well, last night, at the Riverfront in Hastings-on-Hudson, the dream came true. The delightful, delovely, Delaune Michel, the accomplished novelist who dreamed up Spoken Interludes and who runs it here and in Los Angeles, asked me to participate in a group that includes the debonair Blake Bailey, who read from his memoir The Splendid Things We Planned, and Ann Packer, who read from her brand new novel The Children’s Crusade. Commander Will Cushing was in very good company. The crowd was interested and focused and asked a lot of questions, my old pal Jim Meigs and his wife Jenni were on hand, and I got to meet the novelist Ann Hood and the food writer Michael Ruhlman. What a treat.
It’s becoming clear that the internet is taking on the role of the catalog of America’s collective attic. Cruising around last night, I found this item from a 2011 sponsored by Cowan’s auction house: a second national Confederate flag, approximately 4.5 feet by 10 feet. Accompanying the flag was a notarized letter of provenance dated January 26, 2010 stating that the flag was originally acquired by our consignor directly from the estate of Marie Louise Cushing (December 1, 1871-April 23, 1960), sole surviving daughter of Commander William B. Cushing, at a house hold sale conducted at the Cushing residence, 23 Forest Place, Fredonia, New York in 1960. One wonders if this is the same flag that is mentioned in my book: “Cushing celebrated the Union victory in Fredonia. The night that Richmond fell, April 3rd, a crowd that had already been saluting the news at the Concert Hall in town marched on Mary Cushing’s house. In response to their jubilant, insistent serenade, the resident hero stepped onto the porch and added some brief remarks to the patriotic clamor. “Three cheers for the old flag!” he ended, then joined the throng, which boisterously paraded to the Johnson House hotel, where everyone capped the glorious evening with a late supper. Cushing, his mother and his sister were honored with seats at the head table. The victory party lasted all night, the celebrants making a fair bid to exorcise four years’ worth of woe and worry with one great shebang. Outside the hotel, Fredonians took the rebel flag that Cushing had captured in Fort Caswell in January, spread it on the street, and took turns tramping on it. At first light the rebel rag was found flying upside over the courthouse, beneath a glorious Stars and Stripes.”
My article on Heidi Klum is the cover story of the April issue of Success. I enjoyed talking to her–she listened to the questions, gave thoughtful and original answers. The fashion photographer Rankin had a good perspective on why she is successful. “Heidi is just super, super smart. If you come in with a very specific idea about what you want, Heidi will go an extra mile and half to make sure that you are happy. But then she’ll bring something else, another idea, another look, something you didn’t expect. She’ll put on a record, she’ll start moving, she’ll change things up, and give you something else. Maybe it’s something new and different, maybe it’s the original idea with something extra. But it really comes from the fact that she understands fashion, advertising, marketing, the full range of the business, and most of all, herself.’’
Neither Ginny nor I are prone to tout our own abilities, but there are some things we can do, and that’s all there is to it. As it happens, one of them is sitting. Like Will Sonnet, the old TV character played by Walter Brennan put it. “No brag, just fact.” Not that we won’t pee occasionally; not that we’ll always be awake. But park us in a chair, and it’s likely that come hell or high water, we’ll be there long enough to be mistaken for George Segal sculptures. Thus when it was announced last December that Wolf Hall, the two-part adaptation of Hilary Mantel‘s brilliant novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, would be playing on Broadway, we jumped at the chance to see both plays in a single day, which we did last Saturday.
It was a great experience. It was just fun to immerse oneself in theater and historical drama and literature, things we both love. Frankly, we don’t get to it enough. And helping to make it special was that Hilary Mantel herself was at the theater, and I rather fearlessly shook her hand and told her how much I admired her work. I do wish I liked the plays better. I guess they were dramatic enough, but the great pleasure and the great accomplishment of the novels was being inside the head of the main character, Thomas Cromwell, something very difficult to do in a play. As depicted by Mantel, Cromwell was
very intelligent, very shrewd, a great judge of character, a man who had spent his whole life living by his wits, and who was quite good at it. He was also a man of opinion, one who held views about the monarchy and religion and the world generally. We don’t really see much of these attributes in this adaptation. Cromwell is not as complicated: he protects his friends and hurts his enemies. Way too simplistic, I’m afraid.
As it happens, the television adaptation of the novel began on Sunday night, and was pretty much for me everything that the play was not. Cromwell was fleshed out far more fully, and you could see his subtle intelligence at work. Mark Rylance, playing Cromwell, had much more to work with–many more facets of Cromwell’s life was portrayed, and one could see him as father, husband, reformer, and so one. In the best scene in Part One, Cromwell has an audience with the king, Henry VIII, played by Damien Lewis. Cromwell had once been in parliament and was critical of Henry’s war aims in France, and Henry has not forgotten. Henry. a man surrounded by syncophants, is surprised that not only does Cromwell not back down, but he suggests a better way from Henry to get what he wants. There is a moment when a Henry looks at Cromwell with a sidelong glance and a half smile, as though surprised, and even amused, that someone would express to him an original thought. Aha! That’s Wolf Hall in a nutshell–the sublime pleasure in encountering something new and unexpected. I can’t wait for the rest of the series.