A State of Passion

passion

Last fall I lost all interest in writing creatively. I had no passion left for it. I kept wondering when or how the passion would return. I wondered and thought about that for months.

Finally, I found an answer.

I’ve been going back –rea-reading and listening to CD’s that sparked new ideas, inspired me and provided motivation.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Passion isn’t something that just happens. It’s not something that you wait to come to you. Passion is a state of mind. You can manifest and control passion by the way you think about things; by your physiology in how you gesture and hold your body; the speed and tonality at which you speak, and the energy you exude.

When you are passionate about something you sit or stand up straight, your head is up, and shoulders square. Your voice is strong, and you speak in a fast and excited manner. You have a smile on your face, you are confident when you speak. You gesture with your hands and your body language is energetic. You talk about the subject of your passion in a positive manner, and you are all about potentiality.

Passion doesn’t just happen to you, you happen to it. You create passion for whatever you want to be passionate about just by changing your state.

Dead Giveaway (WIP-3)

Previously: Dead Giveaway WIP-2

Henry stood rooted to the ground in abject fear, not sure what to do, not sure he could move if he wanted to. Then the dark specter began to shimmer and shrink into itself. It didn’t sink into the ground, but imploded into the very fabric of space.

Henry stared at the spot where it had been. After a moment he could once again feel the heat of the sun, fear melted away, and the incident began to feel like a hallucination or a dream, but deep down he knew it wasn’t.

Even though the specter was gone, Henry crossed to the other side of the street giving the wooded lot a wide berth. He ran the rest of the way home.

 

Henry’s mom was in the kitchen making something to eat when he came through the front door.

“You’re late,” his mom said, “what was the hold up.”

“Geez mom, it was only a few minutes. It was nothing; I was just talking to an old lady.” Henry said.

“You remember what I said about talking to strangers.” His mother said her brow furrowed.

“It’s okay mom, she didn’t pose any danger. It was an old lady.” Henry said.

“Old, young, man, woman – it doesn’t matter. Anyone and I mean anyone can be dangerous. Who was this woman and where was she?” his mother, Olivia said.

“It was just a couple of blocks from here. Her name is Mrs. Parker, and I’m telling you she’s nice. She stayed at least ten feet away from me the whole time.” Henry said.

Mrs. Parker? Olivia thought. A common enough name, but still it raised a mental flag. Why she couldn’t say.

“What were you making there?” Henry said, changing the subject.

This interrupted her thoughts, “Oh, I was just making you a snack. I have to go back to work. Your father’s in his office working. He’ll be making dinner tonight, but you know when his door’s closed it’s anyone’s guess when it’ll be open again. So, I made you a tuna wrap to get you by.” Olivia said, as she placed the small plate on the dining table.

“You came home just for that?” Henry said.

“Not just that. It got so warm today; I came home to put on something lighter to finish out the rest of my shift. Okay kiddo, I gotta go. Make sure you do your homework and leave it for me to check when I get home. Are you planning on going anywhere?” Olivia said.

“No, but Zeke might come over. We’ll either shoot some hoops here, or play video games. Is that okay?” Henry said.

“Yes, but remember, don’t disturb your father. I’ll see you tonight honey. Love you.” Olivia said as she bent over to kiss her son’s head.

“Love you too Mom,” Henry said, as his mother headed for the front door. “Oh Mom?”

“Yes?”

“You forgot your badge…I mean your shield on the counter.”

Olivia turned, and saw it. With lips tight, she stepped purposefully to the counter where she laid her gold shield when she came home to change. She checked her back holster to be sure she didn’t forget her gun too.

“You’re pretty observant little man,” Olivia said. “Perhaps you’ll make detective one day too.”

“I’d rather be a scientist I think.” Henry said.

“You’d make a good one too,” Olivia said opening the front door, “love you kiddo.”

“Love you too mom, be careful.”

Unfulfilled Potential

[I wrote this a few months ago, and after re-reading it I decided to put it out there. It somehow seems suitable today.]

In Mid-October, I went to the funeral service of an 85-year-old-woman I had known for 33 years. Alyce was a wonderful woman and I loved her for the beautiful spirit she was. She was loved and adored by everyone in her extensive family. She made a difference in her life with all of the children she helped in her career. Alyce’s positive outlook, humor and caring generosity will always be remembered.

I first met Alyce at her home in Moraga, California, when my friends and I were on a cross-country road trip. She was the aunt of one of my friends, and she opened her house up to us guys, and let us stay with her for a few days. Alyce and I hit it off immediately. She was a very hip and cool adult, who understood us twenty-somethings very well. Alyce was so easy to get along with. She was the best.

During the service, I found myself less sad at her passing, and I smiled through most of the service at the memory of the conversations and laughter we shared, and of the person she was.

I had been in a funk since the middle of September, but wasn’t sure exactly why. I love to write, but had recently lost all ambition to do so. The night after the funeral, I decided to go through some newsletters I’ve been skipping over for the past several weeks. I began leafing through message titles and decided to open one from Live Your Legend from mid-September. What I read in the first sentence stopped me cold.

I thought it was a lead in to a parable or hypothetical story. I did not, could not believe what I was reading. It stated that Scott Dinsmore, the founder of Live Your Legend, was killed in a freak accident on Mount Kilimanjaro. He was hit by falling rocks while hiking with his wife Chelsea.

I stopped reading right away and Googled Scott’s name. To my utter sadness there was story after story about the accident that claimed the life of this incredible young man…a month ago. Scott was only 33, but he had literally touched and changed thousands of lives in a positive way. He lived more, and did more in his short life than most do twice his age.

I’m glad his wife was unhurt, but I was absolutely floored by this news. It saddened me deeply. He had done so much for so many. He was so young and had so much more to offer – but now he’s gone.

Still pondering this, it amazed me that I’m so deeply saddened by the passing of a young man I have never met, but who connected with me in his articles and newsletters. Yet, with Alyce’s passing I was far less saddened by her passing.

Taking a walk later the next day, I realized I felt this way because I know Alyce lived a full life. She reached her potential and fulfilled her life’s purpose. For Scott, I feel his vast potential was left untapped, and his life’s full purpose ended far before its ultimate fulfillment.

There are fewer things in life sadder than incredible possibility and potential to change the world for the better – cut short.

Dead Giveaway (WIP-2)

Previously: Dead Giveaway (WIP-1)

“I’m sorry you were hurt. What’s your name?” the boy asked.

The woman stopped crying, and looked at the boy. “My name is Ellen Parker.”

“Good to meet you Ms. Parker, my name is Henry…Henry McBride. I live just up the street from here.”

“It’s Mrs. Parker; my husband’s name is Thomas. He is so sad now. We live…lived in the next town over.”

“I have to go now Mrs. Parker, my mom’s expecting me, but is it okay if I come see you to talk with you again?”

“I’d like that Henry. You go now; you don’t want your mother worrying about you. I know I did when my kids were your age.”

“Okay, Mrs. Parker, I’ll see you around.” With that Henry turned and ran to the corner, made sure no cars where coming then ran across the street and started up the next block.

 

He was a block away from his street when he saw a skinny, young man with short blond hair, and piercing blue eyes sitting on a stoop, smoking a cigarette. Henry tried not to look at the young, man but something urged him to look at the man. He wore a sleeveless red t-shirt, and faded blue jeans with tears in the knees and dirty yellow work boots.

“Hey kid, what the fuck you looking at?” the young man challenged.

Henry looked into the young man’s darkening eyes and sensed danger. The spit dried in his mouth and tried to mouth words, but nothing came out.

As he stared into the young man’s eyes, he saw the eyes lighten and his eyebrows go up as if in surprise. The young man stood suddenly, flicking the unfinished cigarette onto the lawn. “Get the fuck outta here you fucking retard, before I kick your ass,” the young man said before turning and going through the front door. The young man glanced over his shoulder at Henry before slamming the door shut.

Henry turned and ran up the sidewalk, but he didn’t go far.  At the edge of another wooded lot, stood a shadow. A shadow darker than the shade of the trees, darker than the night, darker than a windowless basement in the countryside at midnight. No light penetrated it. It was solid and black. Henry stopped and stared at the specter, roughly the shape of a man. Even in the heat of the sun, Henry felt icy cold terror in the presence of this shadow. It felt worse than danger, it felt evil, it felt like death.

Henry had seen it before.

Of Death During War

This passage was written by Robert Leckie (1920-2001), a Pacific Theater WWII Marine Veteran, after one fight during the Battle of Cape Gloucester, from December 1943 through April 1944. Nothing else I’ve read brings home the gravity of death during war, with more clarity.


I moved among heaps of the dead. They lay crumpled, useless, defunct. The vital force has fled. A bullet or a mortar fragment had torn a hole in these frail vessels and the substance had leaked out. The mystery of the universe had once inhabited these lolling lumps, had given each an identity, a way of walking, perhaps a special habit of address or a way with words or a knack of putting color on canvas. They had been so different, then.

Now they were nothing, heaps of nothing. Can a bullet or a mortar fragment do this? Does this force, this mystery, I mean this soul – does this spill out on the ground along with the blood? No. It is somewhere, I know it.

For this red and yellow lump I look down upon this instant was once a man, and the thing that energized him, the Word that gave “to airy nothing a local habitation and a name,” the Word from a higher Word – this cannot have been obliterated by a quarter-inch of heated metal.

The mystery of the universe has departed him, and it is no good to say the riddle is solved; the mystery is over – because it has changed residences. The thing that shaped the flare of that nostril, that broadened that arm now bleeding, that wrought so fine that limply lying hand – that thing exists still, and has still the power to flare that nostril, to bend that arm, to clench that fist exactly as it did before.

Because it is gone you cannot say it will not return; even though you may say it has never yet returned – you cannot say that it will not. It is blasphemy to say a bit of metal has destroyed life, just as it is presumptuous to say that because life has disappeared it has been destroyed.

I stood among the heaps of the dead and I know – no, I felt that death is only a sound we make to signify the Thing we do not know.

From the book, Helmet for My Pillow – From Paris Island to the Pacific, by Robert Leckie

Dead Giveaway (WIP-1)

To the casual observer, the eleven-year-old looked like he might have a mental disorder. He stood on the side of the road in the sun, facing a shady wooded lot. His hands were clasped behind his back, and it looked like he was talking to himself.

He wasn’t.

“What happened to you?” the boy asked the sad looking, dark-haired, older-woman standing in the shady area of grass on the side of the road.

“He shot me.” The petite woman said, turning her gaze to the boy. “You…you can see me?”

“Yes, I can. Who shot you?” the boy asked.

“The young man in the rust colored truck. He was speeding up the street, this nice, quiet street and he was racing along like it was a highway. What if there had been kids about? It was dark. He’d never have seen them in time. I shouted at him to slow down,” the woman said.

“That made the man angry didn’t it?” the boy said.

“He slammed on the brakes, and then put the truck in reverse as I kept walking. His window was down and he was frowning at me. He yelled at me asking what I said to him. I admonished him for speeding on a residential street, and the danger he posed to the children. He shouted and cursed at me to mind my own business. He called me a word that I absolutely hate.” She said.

“I’ll bet that made you angry,” the boy said.

“I told him I had a description of him and his truck and was going to call the police. The way he looked at me…it was the scariest look  I’ve ever seen,” the words coming out in a hurried jumble. “As I took my phone out to dial the authorities, his arm whipped out through the window and he pointed his fist at me. There was something black in that fist. Then there was a bright flash and a loud sound,” her tone softened. “Next thing I know, I’m lying here in the grass looking up at the leaves of a branch above me, and the starry sky beyond that. It was so quiet, ” “I couldn’t move. I couldn’t make a sound.” She said

“That’s when you got hurt, isn’t it?” asked the boy.

Eyes downcast, nodding her head she said, “Eventually…I realized what happened. He shot me.” She wore an expression of confusion as she looked at the boy. “He shot me because I told him to slow down. He hurt me…because I cared about the welfare of the people in this neighborhood. Why? Why would he do that to me?” She looked down again, clasped a hand over her mouth and closed her eyes tight. Her shoulders began twitching and shrugging.

The boy knew the woman was crying, but there were no tears. He knows ghosts can’t produce tears.

Decide: Plan Your Life Now

Do you remember when Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf states? Or how about when Pope John Paul II died? Or how oil prices were going up sharply almost weekly? In the theaters Star Wars Revenge of the Sith, Madagascar, Harry Potter, and Brokeback Mountain ruled the box office. Mariah Carey, Gwen Stefani and Kelly Clarkson ruled the airwaves. That was 2005, just over 10 years ago.

Do you remember where you were in your life then? What were you like? What were you doing? Who were your friends? What were your hopes and dreams?

If someone had asked you back then, “Where will you be in ten years?” what would you have told them?

Looking at your life today are you where you wanted or imagined you’d be back then? Are you satisfied with the decisions and choices you made over that time? A decade goes by pretty quickly, doesn’t it?

Perhaps the more important questions we should be asking ourselves are:

  • How am I going to decide live the next ten years of my life?
  • How am I going to live today in order to create the future to which I’m committed?
  • What am I going to stand for from now on? And what am I no longer willing to put up with?
  • What’s important to me right now, and what will continue to be important to me over the long term?
  • What actions can I take today that will shape the future I envision?

Another ten years will come and go and you will find yourself at the end of another decade. At the end of those ten years, Where will you be? Who will you have become? Will you be surviving or thriving?

Today, right now is the time to design the next ten years of your life. It’ll do you no good once the ten years have got behind you. Don’t miss the starting gun, seize the moment.

We’re more than halfway through the 20-teens, 2020 will be here shortly after, and before you know it another ten years have blown by. You’ll look back on this year and remember it like you do 2005 now.

Do you imagine you will look back the ten years to 2015 with fondness or indifference, with pleasure or disgust? Make the right decisions and choices now…

El Galeón Andalucía

This is another re-cap of “what we did this summer”. At this rate, I’ll cover Labor Day Weekend by Thanksgiving…

Galleon2

July 26th, 2015 – This was a real treat visiting El Galeón Andalucía, docked in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I’ve long enjoyed stories of trans-oceanic exploration, sea battles, pirates and privateers during the 15th through 18th centuries.  So getting to tour El Galeón, and walk her decks was a real thrill.

This is the only galleon class vessel in the world sailing today. Construction of this ship began in 2009, and was built entirely in Spain. Over 150 men and women worked 16 months to create this exact replica of an ocean going galleon from the second half of 16th century. The results are simply astounding.Galleon15

Galleon7

 

Galleon13

Galleon5

Galleon3Galleon8Galleon6

 

 

 

 

Technically, it isn’t an “exact” replica. It has modern bathroom facilities – though designed to match the ship – and of course it has an engine room.

It is currently crewed by 22 men and women, and is completing a 5-month, 16th Century Ship Tour, stopping at 10 different ports along the U.S. coast.  She will winter in sunny Fort Lauderdale, before setting sail for home port in Spain.

This galleon class vessel was originally built and use for transport and trade of goods, but was also besieged by rival states and put into military service.  It was also the target of pirates for looting or to add to their own attack fleets.

Galleon16 Galleon14 Galleon10 Galleon4

 

 

 

 

As we came aboard the ship, Loly was amazed that such a small vessel was able to cross the vast Atlantic in the times of antiquity. Having read about this period extensively I was not surprised, and knew the Mayflower was a lot smaller!

El Galeón Andalucía is 170 feet long and displaces about 495 tons. The Mayflower was only 106 feet long and displaced only 242 tons. There were 130 passengers squeezed onto that tiny ship when it left England to cross the Atlantic for the New World. Like I said, a lot smaller, but it still made the voyage to Plymouth.

Man, I was the proverbial ‘kid in a candy shop’. My eyes went everywhere, taking in all of the details. I mean not only did the construction of the ship feel authentic, but even the small details like the handmade ropes and all the pulleys, block and tackle, the sails, the cast anchors, the wooden capstan, the netting and even the few pieces of furniture.  It was all so cool. There was so much to see and inspect.

Galleon12 Galleon11 WP_20150726_049

Galleon17

 

 

 

 

 

It was easy, at least for me, to imagine being on a cross ocean voyage, with full sails set into the wind. That romantic vision lasted but a moment as I remember tellings of the hardships, the hard work, and the oppressive heat and humidity of the Caribbean sitting for days on end in becalmed waters. I like the romanticized picture better…

Galleon9

 

Jaws – The Summer of ’75’

JAWS‘ the movie was a phenomenon 40 years ago.

JAWS

It started right in the beginning of the summer, in June, 1975.

Steven Spielberg never expected the movie to become as big a hit as it did, but right from that first week, it was wildly popular. It played in theaters all over the U.S. for months! It was all over the news almost daily during that summer, and suddenly every shark sighting became newsworthy.

The movie was based on the best-selling novel by Peter Benchley, and was rated PG, This was in an era when theaters actually enforced the ratings guide. If you could not prove you were over the age of 13, and showed up without a parent or person who could prove they were at least 18 – you were not let into the theater.

I was 13 and I wanted to see the movie – badly. My Mom wouldn’t allow it. The same was true of a few other kids who also wanted to see it.

We would not be deterred. My best friend at the time, Joe Danaher, was the youngest of 8 children in a traditional (at least in them days) large Irish-Catholic family. All of his brothers and sisters were over 18. We hatched a plan.

First we got Joe to recruit a couple of his siblings to drive a bunch of us kids to the theater to see the movie. His brother Gerald and sister Pam wanted to see the movie anyway and agreed to take us.

Now to account for all of us kids being out late on a summer night, we had to ask our parents’ permission to camp out in the Danaher’s backyard.

Since everyone knew and liked the Danaher family, and it was right in the neighborhood, parents let us do the “camp out”. We had to make it look good because the Danaher back yard was easy to look into – and they also lived right next door to me!

There were six of us kids, and we set about borrowing a 10-person camping tent, from one of Joe’s older brother’s. We struggled with that monstrosity of canvas, screen and aluminum poles for good piece of time. We managed to finally get it set up, but it was sketchy and we didn’t dare touch it or go into it.

We were going to catch the late showing, so we made it look good. We went swimming in the Danaher pool. We knew our parents would be thinking, “Those kids are having a good time. They’ll sleep well tonight,” and “Thank goodness they’re at the Danaher’s…instead of here!”

We even toasted marshmallows over a fire pit. When it was late enough, we made it look like we were going to turn in – just in case any of our parents were watching.

We cut through some bushes in the back of the yard and met Pam and Gerald a block away as we had arranged. We split up into two cars and went to the once magnificent Bayshore Theater (now long gone).

BayshoreRegent

Since it had only been out in theaters for 5 days when we went, the line outside was long. Even for a 10 PM showing, the line stretched down the block and we were at the end of that line. I didn’t think we’d get in.

As we finally made our way to the ticket booth, I could hear the movie beginning. I was in a panic. They were almost out of seats. The 8 of us got the last seats. The problem was they were all in the very first row (note the white backed seats in the picture above), which the usher called “Chicken Row” as he guided us to our seats with a flashlight. Yes, they actually did do that at one time.

Excited, we took our seats mere feet from the giant screen and craned our heads back to take it all in. The screen was so close it encompassed the entire field of our view. The stereo sound was crisp and loud.

In the first scene where young Chrissie went skinny dipping, and that now famous deep bass theme music began to play, I was already tense. When she was attacked, I was horrified by the sounds that came out of her as she was dragged through the water. She screamed begging God to save her, and then was yanked beneath the waves for the final time. That scene haunted me. Still does…

As the movie unfolded, and we met Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), then Oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and the very salty Captain Quint (Robert Shaw), to say was I hooked and drawn in was an understatement. I was there baby!

Jaws Cast

I know every scene of that movie by heart, but there’s one scene I always associate with shock and pain. It’s the scene where the crew of the Orca was trying to find the giant shark, but wasn’t having any luck. They were adrift, bored and whiling away the time.

Brody was tasked with chumming the water with chopped up mackerel to see if they could attract the shark. Brody was tired of flinging the stinking, bloody concoction and wanted to drive the boat. He shouted up to Hooper, “…Why don’t you come down here and chum some of this shit!” At that moment the huge shark made his first appearance, popping his head out of the water.

Brody-Jaws1

Startled, Brody shot to his feet, cigarette dangling in his slack jaw. Never taking his eye off the spot where the shark had appeared, he backed slowly into the cabin where Quint was, and Brody said his famous (ad-libbed) line, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Brody-Jaws2

The first time I saw that scene I couldn’t appreciate it as much. When the shark popped out of the water, the theater audience released a collective scream, including my friend Colleen.

She was so frightened; she swung her arms out wide, smacking Joe in the face to her right and hitting me in the throat with her left. All at once I was sputtering for breath and at the same time realizing why the usher called this “Chicken Row.”

I recovered quickly and absolutely loved the rest of the movie.

Over the last 40 years, I must have seen that movie at least 100 times – and I still love it. It reminds me of the Summer of ’75’ – hot summer nights looking up at the stars, good music, fun with my friends, and a deep fondness for my childhood.

Those were damn good times…

 

Going Back In Time In Newport, RI

August 1, 2015 – Newport, Rhode Island

Loly and I took a road trip to Newport, Rhode Island. A place I had always wanted to go.

Since I was a teen, I wanted to tour the mansions of the “Gilded-Age”. They were built during the late Victorian period of America when industries of all types grew at a rapid pace, transforming the country and making some people immensely wealthy.  With that wealth, they built colossal mansions all over the place.

I first learned about the “Gilded Age” mansions when I was a kid growing up on Long Island. I also learned the North Shore of the Island was called the “Gold Coast” during this period. At one time there were as many as 500 mansions along the “Gold Coast”. Today fewer than a dozen survive.

In Newport, Rhode Island, some of the wealthiest magnates and industrialists built summer homes here. They constructed colossal estates with upwards of 70-rooms, to stay for 10-12 weeks a year. These magnificent homes survive now only through the efforts of the Preservation Society of Newport. They saved these places and give tours to raise money to continue preserving these grand mansions from a bygone era.

I was surprised by a few things: 1. How much traffic there was to get onto what I now know is an island and not a peninsula. It took a long while waiting on the bridge before we were able to get into the main town district (see touristy). 2. How crowded and busy a place it is. 3. That you can’t park anywhere for pretty much less than $20, and 4. How attractive the town is.

We crawled through the main tourist district and found our way onto the famed Bellevue Avenue, where most of the mansions are.  We stopped at the first mansion we saw that had a Welcome flag on the fence. It was the Isaac Bell house. A tour was just letting out and we parked in a side yard of the estate. We climbed the steps to the huge wrap-around porch and approached the front Dutch door. The bottom half was closed and at the open top half we were greeted by a kindly older gentleman who filled in these newbies on what to do.

The man let us into the empty house to buy two, 5 House Tour tickets, which never expire until they are used up. I knew right away I wanted to see the biggest and most famous of the mansions first, “The Breaker’s” where the Vanderbilt’s once lived.

But first, since it was on the way, I wanted to go to “The Cliff Walk,” but that wasn’t happening as there was not one available parking spot.

After a short drive up the road and we pulled into The Breaker’s parking area. To enter the grounds you pass through a 30-foot tall iron gate and walk up the white pebble driveway and are presented with a brilliant view of the mansion. Just standing there in awe of the place, the only words that kept playing through my head were, “extraordinary opulence.” That phrase would play through my head again and again during the tour.

breakers1

The Breaker’s was built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II. He was a railroad tycoon, and grandson to Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt – the man who began the empire. Construction began in 1892, and was completed in 1895.

This is how it looked in 1895. Note that spindly little tree in the right front is now huge!

Breakers1895

 

Breakers tree

The mansion sits on 13 acres of manicured grounds. The mansion itself is a massive 62,000 square feet in size. It boasts 70 rooms, 15 bedrooms for family and guests, 20 bathrooms, and used to have a staff of 40 servants and maids. Mr. Vanderbilt was able to enjoy the fruits of his labor for only one year before he suffered a stroke in 1896, at the age of 52. In 1899, he suffered a brain hemorrhage which killed him. He was just 55.

Cornelius and his wife Alice had seven children together. After her husband died, Alice continued to run the business and raise her children. When Alice died in 1934, their daughter Countess Gladys Széchenyi inherited The Breakers.  As the family fortune began to dwindle, she could no longer afford to staff the mansion to properly care for it.

In 1948, she leased the mansion to the Preservation Society with the stipulation she could maintain an apartment in the house.  With the Society’s help, Gladys opened the mansion to paying tourists to help maintain the building and grounds.

Her daughter Sylvia took over the care and management of the home when Gladys died in 1965. Sylvia was also granted life tenancy until she died in 1998. The life tenancy is still in place. There are Vanderbilt descendants living on the third floor of the mansion – which of course is not open to the public.

First we walked the beautiful grounds of manicured lawns and mature trees. The back of the property is treeless, remaining open to the breathtaking ocean view of the waves breaking against the rocks…

Breakers Namesake

The back of the house is no less impressive than the front. There is a terrace the size of a modern professional basketball court. The space was covered by a large party tent, as it was rented out for a wedding reception.

Breakers Patio

As we walked back toward the house I looked up at the building, feeling completely comfortable, like I belonged there. I wondered if Cornelius walked this same path, looking at the house he and Alice had designed and had built, and marveled at the majesty of how their plans and ideas stood manifest and magnificent.

Loly Terrace

I strolled about with a familiar ease. Along the side of the house was another stepped terrace with a rounded wing jutting out. We were to learn, this was the music conservatory where there were many musical gatherings and parties both in the wing and on the terrace. I could almost hear the classical music playing on a cool New England summer evening, people dressed for the occasion and enjoying themselves.

side view

 

music room

We entered grand foyer where we picked up headphones connected to an mp3 player for a self-guided tour.

The first place you enter is the immense Great Room. Here there were soirees and dances, and dinner parties. The room is adorned in all manner of opulence, constructed completely of limestone and Italian marble. There are statues, carvings, tapestries, portraits and even a fountain under the grand staircase.

Grand Staircase

In one of those dinner parties, on September 14, 1962, right at the base of the grand staircase, sat President John F. Kennedy, and his wife Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

Kennedy and Jackie

The grand staircase was even designed with shorter steps to allow women wearing gowns to appear as if they were gliding down the stairs. On those stairs, much to the chagrin of the butler, the young Vanderbilt children would use serving trays to slide down the stairs. Chips in the stone steps bear witness to these trips. They also took many a ride down the stair banister.

From there room after room was an amazing array of exotic woods, imported stone, sculptures, statues, paintings, and gold is everywhere. In one room the custom wallpaper displays the 9 Muses of Greek Mythology spread out in the corners of the room. The wallpaper itself is inlaid with platinum!

Paltinum

Among my other favorite rooms were the Music Room, and the wood paneled Library. Man, I could have spent some time there.

Library

Then there was the Billiard Room, where I could have spent many a long evening with the gents, over cigars, good drink and lively conversation.

billiard room

While all these rooms were beautiful given their era, I thought two of the absolute coolest rooms were the massive Kitchen, and the Butler’s Pantry – the operations center for the entire estate.

The kitchen has a 21 foot long stove and ovens, heated by coal. There is a zinc-topped work table about the same length and there were solid copper pots of every size. Some are big enough for Loly to sit in.

Kitchen

The very cool Butler’s Pantry is a two story affair where the Butler would be on the open air second floor selecting plates for the right occasion, loading them onto the dumbwaiter to the work area below. The silverware was kept in a large safe in the room. This was also the central operation room to which the speaking tubes, and later the intercoms funneled.

Pantry

I thoroughly enjoyed The Breakers and its rich history.

 

We went to the much smaller Chateau-sur-Mer, but I think we were mansioned out. We began the guided tour, but very quickly grew bored. By the third room we were done, and ducked out.

The best part is we know we’ll be back in Newport. This will be a great place to visit in the peak fall season, and then again around Christmas to take in the grandeur of how they dress up the town for the holiday.

We headed back into the main part of town and were able to get into a parking lot for $20. We stopped for a late lunch at the Barking Crab. The food was pretty good, but it didn’t warrant the prices they were asking. I’ll admit their New England clam chowdah is as good as they boast, but I’d never go back. I felt they were way overpriced because of where they are.

We took a long walk along Thames Street, and enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells, but it was evident it was all set up for tourists. There were no stores we were interested in spending any time in. I did, however, guide Loly into a large antiques store. It was one of the largest and best I had ever seen. I could have easily spent a bundle in there with some of the things they had relating to maritime, art, WWII collectibles, and old photographs. I managed to leave empty handed, and my bank account intact.

We left afterward, and took a too long route home. I know the next time we go, we’ll be better prepared. We know someone who grew up in Newport, and he’s going to give us a personal tour. He’ll show us alternate ways to get on the island, and better places to eat, shop and park.

Newport Bridge

We are very much looking forward to that trip!