It’s been an impossibly complicated year for Mrs. T and me, good and bad in near-equal measure, and it’s far from over. Not only will Satchmo at the Waldorf be transferring to Philadelphia in November, five days after it closes in New Haven, but I have to push my Duke Ellington biography all the way to the finish line. This would be tough enough even if I weren’t simultaneously holding down a day job, but regardless of whatever else may be happening in my life, The Wall Street Journal expects me to file six columns a month, just like clockwork. Granted that these are all nice problems to have, they’re still problems.
I finally figured out somewhere along the way that if we didn’t take two- and three-day holidays wherever we could fit them in, we wouldn’t get any time off at all. So, seeing as how Broadway is about to get unusually busy, we seized our last opportunity to fly the coop last Sunday, threw a couple of suitcases in the trunk, and headed west to a pair of much-loved haunts.
Back in the days when I was vacationing alone, I paid my first visit to a comfy inn on the Delaware River to which I’ve been faithfully returning ever since. A few years ago I brought Mrs. T to Bridgeton House, with which she immediately fell in love. Because Bridgeton House is as quiet and romantic a place as you could ask for, it didn’t take much persuading to get her to return with me a week ago. We spent two nights there, and though the weather during our stay was mostly gray and rainy, it didn’t matter in the least, for we were more than content to sit on the balcony and enjoy the view. We took our evening meals at a pair of equally familiar restaurants, Milford Oyster House and Marsha Brown, and were no less pleased to do so.
Come Wednesday we drove up the river to Ecce Bed and Breakfast, a retreat in the southern Catskills that I discovered a few months after my first trip to Bridgeton House. Ecce is, if anything, an even more important part of my life with Mrs. T, for we spent part of our honeymoon there, and since then we’ve made a special point of going back at least once a year. If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you’ll already know about Ecce, a stylishly decorated five-bedroom inn that is perched on the edge of a high bluff overlooking the Delaware River. Even if it had nothing but a staggering view to offer, Ecce would be well suited to the purposes of relaxation, but the lovely rooms, the extravagant breakfasts, and–best of all–the infinite kindness and consideration of Alan Rosenblatt and Kurt Kreider, the owners and hosts, make it perfect for urban escapees who’ve had too much to do and urgently need to spend a couple of restorative days doing nothing at all.
Work, of course, is with me wherever I go, but Ecce, the only B&B I know in which a signed Al Hirschfeld lithograph of Carol Channing hangs in the upstairs hall, is a fine place for a drama critic to write whatever he may have to write. I filed last Friday’s Wall Street Journal review of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? from our bedroom, after which we went to Henning’s Local and ate the best trout dinner I’ve ever had. Otherwise we passed the time by gazing at the glorious autumn leaves and marveling at the good fortune that brought us together and makes it possible for us to stay–if never often enough–at Ecce and Bridgeton House.
Our little holiday ended too soon, as holidays always do. Come Thursday night we were back home in Connecticut. Two days later we drove down to Manhattan, where we saw a Brian Friel play with Our Girl in Chicago, who is in New York on business and accepted our invitation to spend the weekend at our place. After that I hurled myself back into the daily grind. I’ll be writing three pieces and seeing a show between now and Friday, and by then it’ll seem as though I’d never been away. All things must pass, pleasure very much included.
Even so, the words that I put in the mouth of Louis Armstrong in the last scene of Satchmo at the Waldorf may be worth recalling in this connection:
I had me a beautiful life. Even growing up poor. Didn’t like all of it–how could I? But I always look forward. Always say, “Let’s head for the next town, play the next show, something better gonna be right up ahead.” And it always was.
I feel the same way. Like Pops, I always look forward, hopeful that something better will be up around the bend–and it always has been, even after the darkest of passages through the pandemonium that is life. May it remain so.
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Louis Armstrong sings “You’re a Lucky Guy”: