Popeye Doyle Wasn’t Here

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July 3, 2019, Poughkeepsie-

In 1971, I viewed a film called “The French Connection”, a fictionalized account of New York Police Detective Eddie Egan and his work on a case involving a French heroin smuggling syndicate, and their New York associates.  Gene Hackman played Egan, using the pseudonym, “Popeye Doyle”.  In one scene, Popeye interrogates a suspect in a routine case, asking him “Do you ever pick your feet in Poughkeepsie?”  The suspect is sor attled by Popeye’s pushing the issue that he confesses to the actual crime of which he is accused.

That put Poughkeepsie on the map for me.  About a year later, I was given a ride to the town, by some frat boys from New Paltz State University, which lies  northwest,across the Hudson River.  Poughkeepsie didn’t impress me as a place where people would travel, to engage in weird behaviour, but one never knows.

I stopped here to get a glimpse of how the town was faring now, after reading how it is being compared with Newburgh, a few dozen miles to the south.  Both are viewed by some New Yorkers as down-at-the-heels, miniature versions of the city’s own crime-ridden neighbourhoods.

I found Poughkeepsie to be in a slightly better state, right now, than Newburgh-at least with respect to its downtown area.  It is a somewhat bigger city, and serves as the commercial hub of the Mid-Hudson Valley.

As in Newburgh,I focused on the architecture and the city’s relationship with the river.

The first two photos below show a Nineteenth Century building, which may have been originally used as a mental hospital.  It is now a Seventh Day Adventist church- a far cry from its original use. It still left me with an eerie feeling.

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Walking downhill, towards the Hudson, my attention was grabbed by two things:  This mural which occupied both sides of the street, under an overpass and a rough-looking man, struggling with his equally rough-looking dog, which wanted to walk in the middle of the busy street.  Twice, both man and beast were almost done in by cars which were not going all that fast.  Somehow, the approach of a police car empowered the man to get control of his pet.  My attention went back to the mural.

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That is what I wish to see in the struggling towns of the Mid-Hudson-and in all struggling communities.  The talent and drive are here.  They have, for some reason, not been tapped.

The future doesn’t necessarily need to look like this Victorian-era resort, across the river in Highland, but it starts with bright minds etching their dreams, the way the muralists did in the above scenes.

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This bridge takes people to and from Highland, eight miles southwest of New Paltz and its university.  That is a short distance that, for people like the young man I met in the Waterfront Park, seems like a million miles.  He wasn’t happy standing and staring at the cement whale that lies near the playground, but it seemed to him to be safer than being downtown.

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There is, for those who see a way to self-expression, a vibrant drama and dance scene, based in Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center.

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Making beautiful noise, and painting in bright colours, are what get a community started in building a mindset of recovery and moving towards prosperity.  Handouts, which the young man in the park most certainly did NOT want, will only extend the misery.  I have hope for Poughkeepsie.

NEXT:  A Bit of the Southern Berkshires

Old Town, but Not Cold Town

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December 10, 2018, Alexandria, VA-

In the years in which I was stationed at Fort Myer, VA and  in the several visits I’ve made to the Washington area, since then, I had not been in Old Town Alexandria.  The place was just enough off the beaten path that we always made to the National Mall, that I just never got over here.

The Metro has changed things and Alexandria took its rightful place on my itinerary, all the more so because our family dinner, the night before my mother-in-law’s interment, was held at The Warehouse, a fine dining establishment, in lower Old Town.

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This would be one of the best meals I’ve had, in a long time, and that’s saying  a lot, in a year of fabulous repasts. Yet, let;s get back to the start of this visit.

I took a Blue Line train to Alexandria’s Union Station, just after noon.

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Being a bit hungry, and with dinner nearly five hours away, I stopped in at this simple, but charming, little cafe, across from the train station.  As good as the coffee was, I relished the gyro sandwich, as well.

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Old Town, especially on King Street, has a variety of shops with interesting names:  Hard Times Cafe, Stage Door Deli, and this- a unique place, which was closed-it being Monday.

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Here is an eastward view of King Street. The air was cold, but the vibe in Old Town is uniformly warm.

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Even a broken bench was inviting.

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I spent about ninety minutes enjoying the scenes along the Potomac Riverfront, one of the key ingredients in the Alexandria Story.  This town was one of the first great shipbuilding and sail rigging manufacturing cities in the U.S., and continued in that role, right up through World War I.

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In Waterfront Park, the lone statue is that of a shipwright.

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Oystering is Alexandria’s other claim to fame, and Potomac River oysters are proudly served, both on and off the half-shell.  These pilings are left from an old oystering wharf.

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I could not resist zooming in on the U. S. Capitol, nearly six miles away to the north.

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Animals make do with the weather they’re given.  Here, a duck is grooming its mate, in the bracing Potomac waters.

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Jones Point, named for an indentured servant of the Eighteenth Century, is Alexandria’s largest wilderness park, and the southernmost point of Old Town.  It is the site of numerous archaeological digs, a couple of left-over border markers. From 1801-1847, the City of Alexandria was part of the District of Columbia.  A retrocession was passed by Congress in 1846 and took effect the following year, returning Alexandria to the Commonwealth of Virginia.  During the Civil War, however, the city was occupied by Union forces, thus temporarily reversing the retrocession.

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This house was occupied by the keeper of a lighthouse, at Jones Point, in the nineteenth century.

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On the walk back into Old Town, I noted the area’s awakening Christmas spirit.

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The last forty-five minutes before dinner were mostly spent in Torpedo Factory, which is actually Alexandria’s fascinating three-story arts haven.  More than fifty individual galleries are housed here, as are studios to encourage children’s art.

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The bear reminded me to stop by the small, but heartfelt, Old Town Books, and look for a children’s book-for my ten- month-old grandniece, who was at the dinner. I found a flip book on horses, which she found most interesting, both to sight and to touch, a good early sign!

The superb dinner ended a day, the likes of which “Bunny” always approved.

 

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