Drive to Painted Post- much longer than expected

I can understand why my Grandfather wanted to get out-of-town now that I am in it. Don’t get me wrong, I love New York! The drive here from Connecticut took all of four hours and was pretty much the same scenery all the way once I had crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge. I listened to NPR and wondered why I was doing this until I saw my “sign” . If you wonder what I mean about “sign” just read my last blog. In this case my “sign ” was a road sign saying “Promises Fulfilled Valley.It was all I could do not to let myself steer off the highway as I thought maybe there might be a promise for me in that valley.

This part of New York State struggles between true poverty and weird business. There are some farms left here but most seem to be gone.  There are a lot of discount malls advertised on the highway. The towns are factory towns and Painted Post  is not really either one. I stopped in Corning as I was tempted by the  Radisson Hotel’s “Sleep Number ” beds  as the one lone motel in PP didn’t sound inviting. At the front desk of the Radisson I was treated with courtesy and given a room with not one but two “sleep number” beds. I plan on pretending to be Goldilocks tonight and trying them both.

I think I know why I am here but I can’t be certain. I want to discover why my grandfather decided to be a great success. I want to understand where that desire came from and all the discipline to  fulfill his dream. I would like to know what his original dream was and where it came from. Of course I know I won’t be able to figure all of this out  in one night but making the trip is a beginning. It is a way to pay homage to the man who built IBM  and a way to see what his life was like as a child. The light in Steuben County hasn’t changed much in the 130 years since my Grandfather was born: the harsh, blue/white of the sky still fades softly into the good night of the hills around the town. The bite of approaching winter is felt in the air and the people here still work hard.

Tomorrow I will find the Watson Homestead and walk on the land where my relatives worked and lived.

still packing for Painted Post

I am always surprised at how late the sun is these days. For some reason I am having a hard time sleeping and I toss and turn until about 3:30 AM at which point I go to sleep. When Rosie wakes me at 6:30 it seems way too soon to be getting out of bed as the sky is still dark and there are no bird sounds whatsoever.This morning was no exception. I feel like staying in bed and I wonder why I am even making the effort to drive to Painted Post. What sort of “Eureka!” moment am I hoping for? An explanation for my life, I think, and this is why I reach for a new watch to wear during my expedition. I carefully remove my very chic watch and strap on my Timex Expedition. I am smiling as I do this. Isn’t it great I have found this watch in my closet? It must be a sign I am doing the right thing.Signs are important in our family. My Grandfather took it as a sign he should never drink alcohol again after his horse and buggy with his samples in it was stolen  outside of a tavern where he was celebrating a sale. He took it as another sign he should never fly after the plane his family was going to fly in at a county fair crashed. They had decided at the last minute to get ice cream and had given up their turn. My grandparents always took ocean liners to Europe and my grandfather never flew again. My father had a lot of signs as well. Once when we were on a deserted island in Maine my father became convinced he had heard the voice of a woman calling out to him. He had all of us searching the island for the invisible voice in order to find the source. When no one was found he remained convinced it was something from another world. I think it was . There is a lot of psychic energy running through our group! I have often dreamed about events in future and not been surprised when they happen. sometimes I see information in my head as if I am watching a film when I work on a client.I am pretty much right on most of the time.

I think the Mormons are right to send their young  church members on a mission in the world. I should have been sent to Painter Post years ago. Maybe along the highway I would have seen a sign directing me to the right future. Maybe a farmer’s market in western New York state would have brought me a vision as to what I should be doing or knowing. It is interesting in life how most of us don’t get the chance to try anything new. Most of us have to go to work in the same job daily which we are grateful for particularly today. Most of us stay married to the same person and have children and grandchildren along the way. Life is like the concentric circles written about with patterns happening in lives that spread in the same pattern out into the world: ripples from a stone thrown into a still pond. My life has been about throwing stones into different ponds and creating new circles in each one. This isn’t good or bad, just the truth. Yesterday I was having lunch with a friend and I remarked that my life was pretty much ready for me to shape it again as I wouldn’t have grandchildren to enjoy for a few years and I was lucky enough to have the freedom to do whatever I wanted.

Some people think I am spoiled when they read something like this. I think I am spoiled in material resources, but I would protest I am not spoiled in my belief system.

In our family we learned early on we were supposed to sing for our supper and “leave every campsite better than we found it.” We also learned  that “It’s hard but it”s fair” and “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.My father’s favorite book was “Cheaper by the Dozen” and he  believed that negotiating a better price for six children for almost anything was the highlight of his day. I read recently in the new book about my family my mother persuaded my father early on in their marriage practical jokes were not a good idea. This is not a true statement as I could recount many practical jokes my father enjoyed during our lives. His favorite holiday was Halloween as it meant he could resurrect an old bear costume that must have lived in mothballs in our attic for years. Even though we knew it was him under all that fur we always screamed in terror when he jumped out from behind a curtain in our breakfast room. Never content with just one jump. he would go back behind the curtain numerous times until he collapsed in laughter on the floor. I think we thought this behavior was somewhat strange but acceptable as it wasn’t unusual. My parent’s generation was always having costume parties and loved dressing up.Once my mother invented a game for her dinner party where she paired off each guest with someone they were not married to. She gave the couple a paper bag with some material, straight pins, and a pair of scissors, instructing them they had 30 minutes for the man to design a costume on the woman. Unfortunately the housekeeper quit the next morning as she had overheard one man saying to his partner she must remove her dress or her couldn’t be really creative.

Another friend of my parents had a baby party and all the guests arrived dressed as babies. They entered the house via a children’s slide which had been moved to the front door and drank martinis from baby bottles. By the end of the night I think the hosts wished for a group of babysitters to arrive and straighten things out. Anyway I think my parent’s generation had more fun that the generations since. I say lets revive these traditions and fill up our costume closets!

It’s only 8:27 here and I have to wait until 10:00 AM to leave on my trip as my camera is broken and I need one to document all of my adventure up north. And that reminds me…why in the world did my Dad love Charlie Chaplin so much? We saw every single film of his and many, many times over. My father loved films and had a closet turned into a film room which had a projection window made of glass enabling the projector to shine the film through the window while the audience couldn’t hear the rustle of the projector .We sat on the floor of our living room and watched these silent films for what seemed like hours. Sometimes we watched family films where my mother was always the star with her lovely face and glamorous gestures. My mother had been a model before she married my father and she had no money. She had three blind dates in her life and ended up marrying the third. The first two were with Jimmy Stewart and Jack Kennedy. She had a bit part in a film in Hollywood when she was 20  called “Vogues of 1938” and my father destroyed the copy of the film after they married  as he was a jealous man! My mother loved to tell the story of her return from Hollywood where she had been paid $1000.00 in cash for her movie appearance. She jumped on her bed throwing all the cash around her and felt very rich and happy. The next day she came down with appendicitis and had to use the money for an operation. My mother had a great attitude in life  and seemed to enjoy herself no matter what was happening.

Time to finish packing .

Packing for Painted Post. IBM Selectric?

I wonder what to bring on my  great adventure so I think about what I have packed in the past when I wanted to find an answer. I never travel with a lot of stuff as when we were little we went  all over the world and we always kept track of our own stuff. Sometimes we were given stuff to carry home in addition to our own suitcase. Once when we were returning on a chartered bargain flight from Switzerland my Dad gave me a painting to carry through airports and find places for on our various flights. The painting was about 4 feet by 5 feet and very unwieldly for an eight year old. I remember how hard to was to hold and carry and how the stewardess helped me find a place to store it on the plane. The flight had to make several unscheduled stops as it was an old plane that kept breaking down. I think we were in Newfoundland for three days. I kept the painting in my room with my sisters. I remember one sister had a large cowbell to watch over and the other, an alpine horn. Alpine horns are very long horns but can be broken down into six foot segments.I don’t remember complaining or hearing anyone else complain.

Anyway back to Painted Post and what to pack. ..Evidently my grandfather was born in East Campbell and when he was old and becoming more nostalgic he purchased his old family farm and turned it into a retreat place for religious groups. I found it on the internet. Isn’t it interesting no one in my family seems to know about this place? It is as if the Watson family disappeared with the death of my father and this is because there is no legacy.There is no legacy because no one in my family believed there was anything to leave a legacy for in the first place. Both my grandfather and my father thought their lives would be forgotten in the blink of an eye as neither saw their imprint on the earth. I think they were busy running the company and their families and didn’t contemplate the future. I find this amazing but I suffer from the same belief. I remember being in high school and noticing all the clocks in the school were IBM clocks and thinking my father must have given them to the school It took me years to realize that the IBM cash registers in the supermarket in our hometown were not donated but standard in most stores across the county. Everyone in Greenwich was a company family to one extent or another and none of us felt we were in any way different. I think in todays’ world the difference is famous parents live a much bigger life in Greenwich than they used to and this appears to be true all over the world. Our parents believed that you kept a low profile and bought one pair of new shoes once a year. I won’t even begin to tell you about the size of my shoe closet now as a result of childhood deprivation!

I also think you want to leave a legacy if you have had a joyful life. As I mention previously in this blog, my father and grandfather did not experience this. I am packing a coffee maker as I think I will need a few cups of Starbucks to clear my head after I see the family farm. No doubt it will make me sad, but maybe it will make me happy. Maybe there will be a connection in my brain and a stirring in my heart. Maybe I will see a reason why hard work and obsession breed unhappiness and why sometimes, only sometimes, they do not.

Visit to Painted Post

The actual distance from Greenwich, CT to Painted Post, New York is about 198 miles by modern highway guided by the GPS system in my sturdy German car. Deciding to make the journey, however, took 60 years and an email from my son early one morning last week.

I was sitting in the San Francisco Airport waiting for my plane east and saw I had an email from my son on my blackberry. He was letting me know there was a new book out about my family and his comment was “hope this isn’t too bad!”

There have been a few books out about my family, the “company”, and why things turned out the way they did. I have read all of the books and thought some were better than others. At times, I wish one in particular had spoken about things in a less personal sense. This new book seemed interesting as in the brief blurb in my son’s email, the author spoke about the connection between the temperaments of my father and grandfather and the currents running through the IBM Company over the years. This, I thought, was thought provoking and I immediately ordered the book on my Kindle, the amazing reading device that has changed the way we read in much the same way the computer changed the way we communicate and learn.

I read the book across the country: passing over the Rockies, the Midwest, up into part of Canada without even recognizing where I was as the book was completely engrossing. At one point the flight attendant called out to me asking if I recognized Rosie, my traveling Dachshund, who had escaped into the aisles of the plane. I hadn’t even noticed she was missing from her suitcase. I was fascinated by the book as it told a different story from those I had heard before. Somehow the author had found a way of correlating the stormy temperaments of my father and grandfather into the rise and fall of the IBM Company. This story was not told in a salacious way but in a tone full of truth and compassion. I learned about my grandfather’s father and his humble beginning in Painted Post, New York and my grandfather’s statement saying he was smarter than his father. I found this interesting and I wondered why he felt this and what he had based this decision on. I learned my grandfather had come from a family of women and had started work early in life in Painted Post. I wanted to see what Painted Post felt like and decided to make a visit there as I had no idea where it was. I knew my grandfather had been born there   but we had not visited as children nor had my own father spoken about the town.

It seemed my grandfather had worked his way out of there and headed south to New York City where he could broaden his life and achieve the prominence he had dreamed of as an adolescent. I wanted to understand my Grandfather as when he died I was seven years old. Some might think he had little influence on my life but I remember him clearly for one simple reason. About a year before he died he took me to FAO Schwartz and told me I could have anything I wanted in the entire store. I remember being overwhelmed at the thought of the possibilities of this and I also remember my grandmother taking his arm and saying I should chose “something practical.” My grandfather looked at me with his large brown eyes and repeated once again I could choose anything I wanted. I have no idea why I was so lucky on that day to be the only child with my grandparents inside of FAO Schwarz but I was. Out of the 18 grandchildren I had lucked out. I have no idea if this was the first time my grandfather had done this or if each grandchild had  this opportunity. I think I was in the right place at the right time.

I have been reading about my grandfather’s health in the latest book and he evidently suffered from colitis as well as ulcers and irritable bowel which were left untreated during his lifetime. It seems much of the time he was in pain as well as fearful. Rather than go to a doctor he believed it was better to ignore the pain and continue on in life. There is lovely piece in the book about my father and grandfather attending an event towards the end of my grandfather’s life. The event was to celebrate achievement within the IBM Company and my grandfather was called upon to give a speech. Prior to the speech my father comments on the apparently fragile state of his Dad and yet when the crowd began to applaud  my grandfather’s presence he seemed to grow taller, walked with a more powerful gait and stood in front of the podium a much younger man than he had appeared some minutes before. It was “ShowTime” in the words of our family and he would be the showman he always was in order to play out the day.

I have been thinking about this aspect of my grandfather as “ShowTime” was a common phrase in our childhood. It meant you had to get ready to perform in your most charming manner: serve hor”deurves at a party, shake hands with the guests, trail a parent around an enormous room full of people shaking hands with each one, or just act as if you were the most polite child in the world. In our family we knew what “ShowTime” meant and it wasn’t hard to behave correctly. In a way it was easier to play a role than to be unprepared in life. I still hear the word in my head when I have to go to certain events or give a talk on why my charity deserves support. I say to myself, “it’s ShowTime” and I am filled with energy to do what I need to do. This is a good thing to learn as a child as life is filled with things we need to do in order to survive and flourish in our worlds. Sometimes recognizing you are doing them out of obligation is more empowering than just doing them.

Anyway, back to my grandfather and Painted Post. I have no idea what I am looking for but I am looking for something. I think it has to do with the illusive idea of happiness and satisfaction in connection with achievement. I have spent a lifetime thinking about achievement as I have a legacy of achievement in my family from my father and grandfather. I doubt my father was happy during his life as he was never able to look back at what he had accomplished and achieve a sense of satisfaction. He was restless in his nature and troubled in his relationships. I loved him dearly but couldn’t make him happy as no one could. I wonder if my grandfather was the same in temperament as the book suggests.  Somehow I doubt my grandfather experienced a lot of joy as I think he was always convinced he might lose everything overnight.

I am curious about the genetic component of achievement and how one generation can be very successful and the next, hopelessly unmotivated. Often if there is a very accomplished patriarch there will be no successor as the patriarch prevents  any offspring from achieving by refusing to recognize accomplishments and rewarding them in childhood. Children of very successful parents may have careers but have trouble believing their lives are in any way as important as their successful father or mother. The interesting thing about being a child of parents like this is learning how to value yourself and what you accomplish in your own life. How can any child possibly believe they can begin to compete with their parent if the accomplished parent has created a company like IBM?How can a parent who is incredibly successful insure their children will feel satisfaction from whatever work they chose?

 

 

Painted Post represents a path to more understanding for me. I am curious about how my grandfather did what he did and I would like to understand why my father was able to carry on the tradition without dropping out of the competition.Maybe a drive up the interstate through the dark cities of New York state will give me a sense of where I have been and where I will go from here.

dating life

Last night I went out with a girlfriend to a local gathering spot in Marin county.  We were having a good time as we sipped our wine and chatted about what had gone on over the past week. After a while we noticed a single man whom my friend knew fairly well. We invited him to join us as he was on his own and we were out for some fun! After a very short while I think we both realized we were happier before he joined us and having a happier time. I reflected on the interaction between us as I was going to sleep last night. As soon as the man joined us the table for two women became a table for three and an unspoken competition  arose between the women. I bowed out of the competition early on by informing him I had a boyfriend but the competitive spirit still remained. I watched my lively friend  charming both of us and I noticed after a while how angry she was becoming with the guy. As I listened to the conversation between them I began to understand why this was happening. This man is a perfectly nice man, don’t get me wrong, but he had absolutely no understanding of what might be interesting or appropriate conversation to have with two attractive and bright women. Obviously he had never been interested in learning or, more importantly, had never had to learn.  He is very successful in his life and can do pretty much whatever he wants. I know there are a lot of women who would sit quietly by his side listening to his story of a dead battery in a smoke detector for 15 minutes and act as if it were fascinating. I wanted to know about his work , his impressions of the economy and his outside interests. That is what I am interested in these days when I meet someone new. I think the interesting part of the evening was my own behavior in wanting to win over the man. I didn’t think about this consciously but I noticed it after the evening was over. Even though I didn’t like what he was saying or think he was a compassionate man, I wanted to win him! I didn’t want to keep him, only win him. I learned this behavior at my mother’s knee. She taught me very well the importance of winning in the man game. There are no rules, you can cheat, lie and steal but you must win. The interesting thing to me now is realizing how bad it feels once you have won. There is no emptiness like winning in this game. There are no ego benefits at this stage of life. There are no accolades to receive. There is only emptiness. Wanting to win when the race involves two women is a race I have decided not to enter anymore. It took one last event to make me realize how my mother was not right in this approach to life. There were a lot of reasons why she needed to win most of her life. She came from poverty and married wealth. She always remembered what it was like to be really poor and have a lot of rich friends.She remembered what it was like to go to dances wearing cheap dresses and to hope the boys noticed you despite the dress.She heard her mother constantly telling her that it was “just as easy to marry a rich man as a poor one.” My  mother was a beautiful woman and she felt beauty was all she had . This caused her to spend most of her life watching other women to see who might be lovelier than her including her daughters. I have spent a lot of my life wanting to measure up to her idea of beauty. Was I pretty enough? As pretty as my mother? Prettier? The funny thing about looks is no matter how lovely you are it never seems believable as you need the constant admiration of anothers’ eyes. You can’t just hear once how beautiful you are, you need to hear it more and more. As you get older it is more interesting still as you compare your own face to those of  a similar age and take pleasure when you see you look younger.There is no winning in this competition as you can imagine. Maybe other women don’t have this problem as severely as I do. Maybe their mothers were not as aware of the competition. The interesting part of getting older is seeing what you do and why you do it. There are so many people who don’t want to know.I loved my mother and spent a lot of time trying to make her see her strengths. I am afraid this was a losing battle.

Roman Polanski and Mackenzie Phillips

I have been pondering the news over the past week and am disturbed by what is going on in the world. Not only have we had alarming incidences of violence in nature,  we have also heard from Mackenzie Phillips  and Roman Polanski. Perhaps these two names might not be connected in some reader’s eyes, but to me there is a deep connection: the connection of abuse. Mackenzie Phillips chose to reveal the details of her childhood abuse by her father. She recounted a story of  sexual abuse by her father including drug use and abuse. She describes her father  as saying he wanted to move to a country where their “relationship” would be accepted. She grew up believing that sex with her father was all right.

Roman Polanski has evidently moved to a country where his admitted rape and sodomy of a 13-year-old is accepted and forgiven. There are editorials in the news from people in the film business stating Polanski should be released and  has paid for his crime. Polanski should be forgiven for supplying alcohol laced with Qualudes to a thirteen year old and then raping her. As if raping her was not enough, he subjected this young girl to sodomy for his own twisted pleasure. The girl ,who is now a woman, states she has forgiven him. What other choice does she have in a culture of forgiveness? There should be no forgiveness for sexual abuse, no tolerance for taking advantage of the innocence of children and no acceptance for any behavior where people are abused or tormented.

I find these two cases alarming examples of what can happen in a culture of forgiveness. I think there should be no forgiveness for crimes like these.  I think Polanski should go to prison for the remainder of his days. I think Mackenzie Phillips is a genuine hero and should be treated as such. Bringing out into the light stories of abuse is a good thing for all of us. It reminds us of what can happen if there is no one paying attention to the lives of our children. It reminds us to pay attention to the forces of power in our lives and to watch diligently the lives of our children to ensure there is no possibility of abuse of any kind. If the parents of Polanski’s victim had paid more attention perhaps this terrible thing would not have happened to her. If someone had listened to Mackenzie’s thoughts as a child perhaps she might have had a voice to cry out with. To say, “Stop! You cannot do this to me.”

A bully will keep on bullying until he or she is stopped. We need to focus on developing a strong voice in our children of what is right and what is wrong by ensuring we set an example of engaged parenting and examples of boundaries being set. Every child deserves to have parents who respect their physical and emotional boundaries and encourages children to learn to respect themselves. Forgiving Roman Polanski or John Phillips  is not acceptable. Both of these men are criminals and one is alive and should be punished. Lets start setting better examples now by condemning acts of abuse and punishing them even if years have passed. The crime will never be forgotten in the minds of these two women.