Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Morristown, NJ

Photo by Penguin Scott

May 28 2008

Long Newark layovers have always been an enjoyable trip, excepting for the 6am departures to go back home. A 0430 pickup means waking up at 0330. That’s 1:30am to me, being that I live in San Francisco. And I’m a night owl, so I’m usually going to bed about the time of our pickup, unless I have to be up for work, of course.

Since hotels in New York are so expensive, we stay about 20 minutes away in a little sleepy town in NJ. Morristown is very historic as well. There are markers for locations where Hamilton met with spies and with French diplomats. There is a cemetery with markers from the 1700’s. George Washington directed troops in the Continental Army here. He was headquartered here, slept here, etc. The fact he slept there, always a big deal it seems, anywhere Washington slept, makes me wonder about the other suppositions that go along with it. Washington must also have pissed in the woods, among other things!

I enjoy finding new things to do on my layovers here in Morristown. I once walked to the Ford mansion, where Washington was based. Once I walked up to Speedwell Lake, a small lake about a mile away with a nice little trail to follow amongst the tall trees and lots swans, ducks and water rings formed from the fish poking their noses into the surface of the lake.

I wanted to see something new for this trip so I got on line and poked around and found out that a few blocks away was a fort on top of a hill. It was called Fort Nonsense. It got its name from the troops who were sent there to build a fort and encampment for about 30 men. Raised above the small town, it was to serve as a lookout for the British and a signal fire, or beacon was to be built to signal troops in the region to gather at preselected meeting points to react to the emergency. The troops thought the work was nonsense, prepared to keep them busy. But Gen. Washington always garnished having the high ground in any situation.

After getting some sleep to recover from my red eye trip, I awoke to beautiful, cloudless day. It was about 70 degrees with a light breeze. I had heard one can see Manhattan from the top of Ft. Nonsense, so I was lucky to have such a nice day to make my viewing of it.

It was quite close, a nice, steep walk up the road to the top. I was alone, save for an ambulance and its crew of 3 who were talking to a guy on a motorcycle. I found a picnic table at which to sit and ponder some things going on in my life for a bit, watching a cute little chipmunk make its way near me; then after finding out I had nothing to offer, scampered off in another direction.

After my break, I walked around, reading the various informational signs that littered the park. They outlined the fort’s history, gave info on the foundaries of the area, informed of troop activities and named Washington’s temporary home nearby.

There were not many good vantage points to get a view, considering that I on top of a hill that I estimate as being about as high as a 20-story building, due to the numerous and high trees. I gathered from the drawings on the plaques that these trees had mostly been chopped down in the late 1700s.

As I approached the one decent opening of trees I passed the 4 other people at the fort, nodding a greeting as the walked from the view back towards the ambulance. However, one guy came up towards me. He smiled at me and asked if I was a history buff. I told not so much, but was just enjoying another thing to do in Morristown, explaining my business here. I told him I’d heard there was a view of Manhattan, but was disappointed in not seeing it. So he walked me down into the grass a bit and started showing me the layout.

To the east is a ridge of mountains, about 600 feet high. This mostly blocks the view, but you can see a few things. He showed me where the Empire State Building was, the spires of the George Washington Bridge, and where the Trade Center Towers used to stand. I was amazed at how far apart it seemed to be, then realized that I was only seeing the top 15 or so floors of the ES building. Were to be on that ridge, closer to town, I would be shown a wondrous view of the city, he told me.

Next he pointed out a few other points of interest; a nearby collage, a water tower-200 feet from which, is where he lived- the hospital he was based in. The hospital is known for it’s heart work. They don’t do transplants there, but soon will be. I told him I hope to never have to find out how well they are!

It was very nice of him to show me these things. I introduced myself and found out his name is Brian. He and his crew do specials, meaning the only transport patients from one hospital to the next, they don’t respond to emergencies. They had a rare occurrence of some downtime and came to the park to relax.

It’s one thing to be able to visit a town and read up on some of its history. It’s another to be able to meet a local get a behind the scenes sort of look and knowledge I would never get on my own. Like Morristown being the seat of the 2nd wealthiest county in the country; the base of many corporations, and the stopping place for some of the elite. The Vanderbilt’s once lived “over there”, Whitney Houston lives in the area, as well some high named Wall St. investors.

The time for our visit came to an end. I walked back down the hill to find many of the workers getting off from work and filling the sidewalks to make their way to their cars and homes.

Like Washington in 1777, I now prepare to rest for the night in the same town he once did. Unlike our founding father, I have a Hyatt bed and soft pillows. I’m also not afraid of the British invading at any given time.

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